Apollo Clark

Art Deco

Great article, not as thorough as an art history encyclopedia, but well worth the look.

Source – Smashing Magazine

Avatar - The Making of the BootlegA spoof of all the “making of Avatar” videos is out there. It makes fun of James Cameron’s 15 year journey to create Avatar. And yes, telesync versions of Avatar are available on BitTorrent now. And watching it that way is nothing at all like watching the movie in a theater in 3D.

Source – Mathew Ingram, TechCrunch

Legend of Neil

Fan-made movies, and now web-series, are a staple of the Internet. Featuring Felicia Day of “The Guild” fame, follow the adventures of Neil… er, Link, as he journeys through Hyrule to defeat Lord Gannon and save Princess Zelda.

The Legend of Neil

MurayamaEver looked at a flower, and truly marveled at its geometric beauty? CG Artist Macoto Murayama does that, highlighting the mechanical and geometric structures of nature in stunning detail.

Excerpt from Frantic Gallery

Macoto Murayama cultivates inorganic flora. First, he chooses the plant and finds the real flower, for example the exquisite Lathyrus odoratus L. Second, he dissects the flower cutting the petal and ovary with scalpel and observes it with magnifying glass. Third, he makes sketches and photographs the parts of dissected flower. Forth, he models its form and structure using 3ds Max (3DCG software). Fifth, he renders separate parts and creates a composition using Adobe Photoshop. Sixth, he imposes admeasurements, parts names, scale, scientific name etc. Seventh, he prints out Lathirus odoratus L. at large scale printer and frames it… Here it is, The Flower of Totalitarian Scientific Conscious: properly fixed, totally measured, strictly nominated and distinctly shown. It is not only an image of a plant, but representation of the intellect’s power and its elaborate tools for scrutinizing nature. The transparency of this work refers not only to the lucid petals of a flower, but to the ambitious, romantic and utopian struggle of science to see and present the world as transparent (completely seen, entirely grasped) object. Paradoxically, this scientific challenge to measure the Universe might eventually become one of the sources where art of Murayama draws its strength of fantasy and odor of romanticism, becoming a part of Botech Art, symbiosis of Botanical Art and Technology.

Source – Creators Bank, TORAY, Pink Tentacle

Americans' print consumption has declined since 1960 but words delivered by computer have more than made up the difference.Americans’ print consumption has declined since 1960, but words delivered by computer have more than made up the difference. (Image courtesy of the University of California at San Diego’s Global Information Industry Center)

Conventional wisdom holds that YouTube, videogames, cable TV and iPods have turned us away from the written word. Glowing streams of visual delights replaced paper and longhand letters shrank to bite-sized Facebook status updates, the theory held.

Conventional wisdom, in this case, is wrong.

A large-scale study by the University of California at San Diego and other research universities revealed what some of us have long suspected: We’re reading far more words than we used to as we adopt new technologies.

“Reading, which was in decline due to the growth of television, tripled from 1980 to 2008, because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet,” found a University of California at San Diego study (.pdf) published this month by Roger E. Bohn and James E. Short of the University of San Diego.

Americans consumed 3.6 billion terabytes of information last year, averaging 11.8 hours of information consumption per day. Video and videogames constituted 55 percent of those bytes, but on average, Americans read 36 percent of the 100,500 words they consume each day, according to the San Diego study, which analyzed more than 20 data sources. The study doesn’t cover writing, but a simple glance at Facebook feeds reveals that we’re almost certainly writing more than we used to, as well.

Admittedly, posting “OMG best pizza ever C U l8r” to a mix of strangers, friends and acquaintances is not the same as carrying on a lengthy epistolary relationship.

“The Internet is about the death of the written word as a means of exchange and a store of value,” writes Sam Vaknin, Ph.D., in a typical criticism. “As a method of conveying information, written words are inefficient and ambiguous…. Sounds and images are far superior … thus, textual minimalism is replacing books and periodicals.”

However, that “textual minimalism” sure adds up fast — especially considering that a decent percentage of status updates include links to longer blog posts and articles. No matter how you slice it, this San Diego study found text to be a bigger part of our lives than it was 30 years ago, when much of the internet was a mere gleam in Al Gore’s eye.

In addition, longer formats continue to be popular, despite increases in textual minimalism, competing sources of information and the general shrinkage of print magazines and newspapers — see Ars Technica’s 23-page review of Mac OS X 10.6 (1,447 Diggs, 142 on Reddit), or Glenn Greenwald’s lengthy opinion pieces (430 comments), neither of which would likely have been published by a print publication.

Meanwhile, Amazon, which seems to sell everything under the sun — including videogames, cameras and television sets — announced on Saturday that the Amazon Kindle, an eBook reader, became “the most gifted item ever in [Amazon] history” during this year’s holiday season.

The most gifted item during next year’s holiday season could well be Apple’s “iSlate” tablet, assuming rumors of its impending 2010 release are true. Say what you will about the literacy level of tweets or texts, but the position that literacy is on the decline is untenable when the most-hyped device of next year is said to be designed with free and paid-for electronic text — especially magazines — in mind.

If you’re reading thousands of words a day on a variety of devices, paper included, you need as much help as you can get in deciding which words to read. Ironically, the same technologies derided by some for contributing to a lack of literacy — Facebook and Twitter — are full of recommendations of things to read.

Technology may have truncated and warped the written word in some cases, while increasing competition for our time. But as borne out by this new data, technology hasn’t found a substitute for the written word as a means of conveying certain types of information. And, in fact, it has made reading and writing even more essential parts of everyday life.

Source – Wired

Inforgraphic - Had Technology made life better?Given the rise of technology, has it really made life better? According to a new Pew Research study, cellphones, email, and the internet have made life better, but not reality tv shows (big surprise), while tattoo’s have questionable social impact.

Source – Pew Research Center

We’re still not about say the e-book reader industry has branched out beyond the infancy stage, but one of its flagship products certainly has reason to celebrate. Amazon has announced it’s hit some pretty big milestones with the Kindle. The two bullet points it’s currently touting loudest is that the reader has become “the most gifted item” in the company’s history — quite an achievement given the size of the online retailer, but what’s missing here is any quantitative sales data to give us even a ballpark of the number of units sold. The other big news is that on Christmas Day (we’re guessing not Christmas Eve, else the press release surely would’ve mentioned it, too), e-book sales actually outsold physical books. Those brand new Kindle owners needed something to read, right? It’ll be interesting to see if that momentum is maintained through next year, especially with some major publishers starting to show some teeth with digital delays.

The Kindle bits were all part of Amazon’s annual post-holiday statistical breakdown, so in case you’re wondering, besides Kindle, the company is claiming its other top-selling electronics were the 8GB iPod Touch and Garmin nuvi260W, and in the wireless department the honor goes to Nokia’s unlocked 5800 XpressMusic, Plantronic’s 510 Bluetooth headset, and AT&T’s edition of the BlackBerry Bold 9700.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

source Amazon

Don't Panic!

BERLIN — A German computer engineer said Monday that he had deciphered and published the secret code used to encrypt most of the world’s digital mobile phone calls, saying it was his attempt to expose weaknesses in the security of global wireless systems.

The action by the encryption expert, Karsten Nohl, aimed to question the effectiveness of the 21-year-old G.S.M. algorithm, a code developed in 1988 and still used to protect the privacy of 80 percent of mobile calls worldwide. (The abbreviation stands for global system for mobile communication.)

“This shows that existing G.S.M. security is inadequate,” Mr. Nohl, 28, told about 600 people attending the Chaos Communication Congress, a four-day conference of computer hackers that runs through Wednesday in Berlin. “We are trying to push operators to adopt better security measures for mobile phone calls.”

The G.S.M. Association, the industry group based in London that devised the algorithm and represents wireless companies, called Mr. Nohl’s efforts illegal and said they overstated the security threat to wireless calls.

“This is theoretically possible but practically unlikely,” said Claire Cranton, an association spokeswoman. She said no one else had broken the code since its adoption. “What he is doing would be illegal in Britain and the United States. To do this while supposedly being concerned about privacy is beyond me.”

Some security experts disagreed. While the disclosure does not by itself threaten the security of voice data, one analyst said companies and governmental organizations should take the same steps to ensure the security of their wireless conversations as they do with antivirus software for computer files.

“Organizations must now take this threat seriously and assume that within six months their organizations will be at risk unless they have adequate measures in place to secure their mobile phone calls,” said Stan Schatt, a vice president for health care and security at the technology market researcher ABI Research in New York.

Mr. Nohl, who has a doctorate in computer engineering from the University of Virginia, is a widely consulted encryption expert who waged a similar campaign this year that prodded the DECT Forum, a standards group based in Bern, to upgrade the security algorithm for 800 million cordless home phones.

Mr. Nohl has now set his sights on G.S.M., whose second-generation digital technology is still the most widely used wireless-communications standard in the world. About 3.5 billion of the world’s 4.3 billion wireless connections use G.S.M.; it is used by about 299 million consumers in North America.

In August, at a hackers’ forum in Amsterdam, Mr. Nohl challenged other computer hackers to help him crack the G.S.M. code. He said about 24 people, some members of the Chaos Computer Club, which is based in Berlin, worked independently to generate the necessary volume of random combinations until they reproduced the G.S.M. algorithm’s code book — a vast log of binary codes that could theoretically be used to decipher G.S.M. phone calls.

During an interview, Mr. Nohl said he took precautions to remain within legal boundaries, emphasizing that his efforts to crack the G.S.M. algorithm were purely academic, kept within the public domain, and that the information was not used to decipher a digital call.

“We are not recommending people use this information to break the law,” Mr. Nohl said. “What we are doing is trying to goad the world’s wireless operators to use better security.”

Mr. Nohl said the algorithm’s code book was available on the Internet through services like BitTorrent, which some people use to download vast quantities of data like films and music. He declined to provide a Web link to the code book, for fear of the legal implications, but said its location had spread by word of mouth.

The G.S.M. algorithm, technically known as the A5/1 privacy algorithm, is a binary code — which is made exclusively of 0’s and 1’s — that has kept digital phone conversations private since the G.S.M. standard was adopted in 1988.

But the A5/1 algorithm is a 64-bit binary code, the modern standard at the time it was developed, but simpler than the 128-bit codes used today to encrypt calls on third-generation networks. The new codes have twice as many 0’s and 1’s.

In 2007, the G.S.M. Association developed a 128-bit successor to the A5/1, called the A5/3 encryption algorithm, but most network operators have not yet invested to make the security upgrade.

The encryption key itself does not enable surveillance of mobile calls, which must still be overheard and identified from the digital stream of thousands of calls transmitted through a single cellphone station.

The undertaking is complex because a digital call typically hops among up to 60 different broadcast frequencies during a single conversation, as the mobile network operator maximizes the use of its available bandwidth.

In a statement, the G.S.M. Association said efforts to crack the algorithm were more complex than critics have asserted, and that operators, by simply modifying the existing algorithm, could thwart any unintended surveillance.

The group said that hackers intent on illegal eavesdropping would need a radio receiver system and signal processing software to process raw radio data, much of which is copyrighted.

But Mr. Nohl, during a presentation Sunday to attendees at the Berlin conference, said the hardware and software needed for digital surveillance were available free as an open-source product in which the coding is available for individuals to tailor to their needs.

Simon Bransfield-Garth, the chief executive of Cellcrypt, a company based in London that sells software, said Mr. Nohl’s efforts could put sophisticated mobile interception technology — limited to governments and intelligence agencies — within the reach of “any reasonable well-funded criminal organization.”

“This will reduce the time to break a G.S.M call from weeks to hours,” Mr. Bransfield-Garth said during an interview. “We expect as this further develops it will be reduced to minutes.”

Source – New York Times

If I just duck behind cover after this, I'll be fine.

It’s a topic that gets a lot of attention. And for good reason. Violence is an easy talking point for the media. It’s an intense allure for a gamer. It’s a wonderful tool for the developer. Violence can be the central theme of an entire marketing strategy. I’ve heard that love and peace are the great unifiers of civilization. Nonsense. Nothing reaches across multiple demographics like some simple, in your face, head exploding, shotgun pumping, shovel to the back of the head style violence.

That said, I’m starting to find modern video game violence a bit… lacking.

A very roundabout and disjointed example: I was recently playing Batman: Arkham Asylum while hanging out with a friend (we’ll call him “Rob”. Mainly because his name is “Rob”.) I didn’t want to hog the game, so we handed the controller back and forth and random intervals.

Watching him play the game was a bit of a revelation for me. His style completely foreign. His method for dealing with the vile gun-toting criminals of this digital Gotham City? Run up to them and punch them. There was practically zero sneaking. Almost no subtlety or grace. He would just run up and punch the bad guy, usually taking a few machine gun shots to the face, and then zip away to a magical gargoyle that would render him invisible while his Bat-health recharged. Then he would repeat the process until there was nothing left to punch.

It was effective, I will grant that much. But to me, it kinda missed the point of Batman. Here’s a snippet of the ensuing conversation.

wrong-batman

ME: You got shot.

ROB: Yeah.

ME: Batman doesn’t get shot.

ROB: It’s fine. I already healed.

ME: No… it’s not fine. You’re supposed to be Batman. Batman doesn’t get shot. He doesn’t get shot, because he’s Batman.

ROB: I’m wearing armor. I can get shot.

ME: I don’t think you’re listening to me.

I want realistic violence when I play video games. So, my goal when I played Batman: Arkham Asylum was to not get shot. That’s how Batman (yes, the guy dressed in tights fighting the clown) becomes realistic to me. And since I write comics with the name “Batman” in the title, I’m claiming an authoritative voice here.

Though now that I think about it, I already wrote a story where Batman got shot. So now I’m a hypocrite. Ah well.

Anyway, that’s my problem with video game violence. Bullets are something we shrug off. Point blank fire with a machine gun is something that a tiny bit of flexible body armor and 20 seconds sitting on a magic invisibility inducing gargoyle can cure. Time and time again, I’ve heard people claim that they want to see a greater degree of realism in video games. But that’s a lie. We don’t want realism. We want fantasy. We want unlimited ammo and we want rapid respawns. We want to jump out of second story windows without a scratch. We want to dodge bullets and shake off mortal wounds without pause.*

I’ve been shot at a couple of times. I don’t mean I was sitting at the TV waving a controller around so a little pixel person could dodge cyborg powered armor piercing poison tipped bullets. Nope. These were just bullets from a simple and boring hand gun. In each instance, the bullets missed. Lucky me. Because there were no handy first aid packs or carefully planted green herbs lying around waiting. If I had been shot, I expect it would have been amazingly unlike a video game. Assuming the bullet did not inflict irreparable harm to my body, the experience of actually being shot (let’s assume a grazing strike to the shoulder) would have likely done irreparable harm to the cleanliness of my pants. Yes. I realize the imaginary bullet hit my imaginary shoulder. You do the obvious math on how that correlates to the un-cleanliness of my pants. batman-right

Unlike video games, being shot at doesn’t really give you time for much more than a sense of dull panic while a part of your brain shuts down in shock over the fact that you are looking down the barrel (literally) of your own death. If one of those bullets had managed to strike home, say, in my skull. My last thoughts would likely have sounds like this:

ME: Golly, is that a- GYUH!

Rapidly followed by some sort of sickening thud noise as of a part my body meant to still be inside my body hits the ground.

I want to see video game realism brought to that level. I don’t want to roll my eyes at the thug carrying a pistol as overly simple and unexciting. I want round the digital corner and freeze upon realization that this combination of pixels is holding the power of my simulated life and death in its carefully rendered hands.

And I don’t want any of this out of some overbearing concern that we as a society are allowing ourselves to become numb to the grim realities of blah blah blah. Nope. I want a game that recreates that insane rush of endorphins and adrenaline or whatever it is after hearing a simple bullet crack past your ear. That’s what games should be. So real that I just have to put down the controller for a minute because some part of my lizard brain is shaking in disbelief over the scenario I somehow managed to survive.

That’s what video game violence should be (or violence in any medium, frankly). A tool to provoke an emotional response. Not just an excuse to show off graphics because they’re really freaking awesome (for the record: they are). The blood might look really pretty on screen, but after the tenth gallon or so…

Meh.

*I have no doubt that there are many games available that come closer to achieving a realistic setting than what I describe. I don’t care. I’m making sweeping generalizations here. It’s what I do.

Source – Elder Geek

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