Re-Imagined (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 6-27-13)

Re-Imagined – Imagine yourself running through a dark maze lined with glowing orbs.  You have to consume the orbs to stay alive, so you keep going.  But you know that around the next corner could be a merciless wraith yearning to suck your life right out of existence.

If you didn’t know better, you probably thought that I was talking about Pac-Man.  Well, it turns out that I am.  FPS-Man provides a new point of view for the arcade classic.  Specifically, first-person shooter.  Instead of the top-down view of the maze, the walls rise up beside you and you trek trough the tunnels without any knowledge of what around the next corner.  And did I mention the spooky music?

A fan’s comment says it best – “Holy (bleep), turns out pac man is a scary game”

Un-Imagined – What could be better than watching the original Star Wars only using the technology that was available at the time?  For example, how about ASCII and TELNET?  This has been around for a while, but for the readers that were born in this century, pull up a command prompt.  Type “telnet” and enjoy the show!

WWDC – The Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) occurred last week.  Traditionally, this has been the place that Apple has introduced its new product lines.  No real game changers from the usual suspects this year, so for the sake of brevity, let me run through the highlights in bullet form.

  • ·      Apple’s newest operating system iOS7 was introduced.  The OS got a font upgrade and a lot of features that were ripped off from Andriod, WebOS and Microsoft Phone 8.
  • ·       The MacBook Air got a new battery, but no retina display.
  • ·      The next desktop operating system OS X will not be named after a cat.  Instead it will be named after a strip of California coastline knows as Maverick.
  • ·      MacBook Pro? iWatch?  Umm…Nothing.

The big tease of this year’s WWDC was the Mac Pro.  Apple’s high end desktop promises to be a beast:  Up to 12-core CPU, next generation flash providing 1 GBps throughput, and dual GPU supporting 4K video on 3 different displays.  Not to be outdone, the designers packaged all this into a cylindrical form factor that’s about one-eighth the size of the current Mac Pro.  Quite a nice looking package, actually.  Look for it at the Apple Store later this year.

NSA Follow-up – Looks like this topic is going to be around for a while, or at least until Edward Snowden is caught.  A lot has been said about Snowden.  Here’s my two cents.

When the actions of the government diverge from the principals upon which the government was founded, no one should be surprised when free individuals begin to speak up.  Our country was started by a group of individuals who risked life and liberty in a stance against an oppressive government.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Augusta’s own George Walton, were considered criminals and traitors and subject to the same vitriol that we now hear focused on Snowden.

That said, the rule of law must be respected, especially among a group of individuals that strive for self-government.  Mr. Snowden broke the law in a severe manner.  It is appropriate for him to be returned to the U. S. and be tried accordingly for his actions.  History will have to decide whether he’s a patriot or a traitor.

Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker

NSA’s Spying Eyes

NSA’s Spying Eyes (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 6-20-13)

When the NSA domestic surveillance collections came to light a few weeks ago, I knew that I would have to write about it.  After all, several times before I’ve warned against Congressional and Executive actions regarding cyber security and data collection.  As I sit here, though, trying to put thoughts on paper, I’m struck by how these and related revelations strike at the most fundamental values of our country.  Namely, the concept of liberty, and how we seem to have forgotten what it means.

While it’s very difficult to find a concise definition for Liberty, I think it is fair to define Liberty this way:  The right and power to act, believe or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing.  Liberty is the principal value upon which America was founded.  Although it reads somewhat like a cliché nowadays, Patrick Henry very concisely summed up the relationship between life, slavery and liberty:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Thomas Jefferson also provides a key insight regarding liberty with respect to the relationship between a government and its people:

When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”

Of course, all this is philosophical.  Who really cares?  The data collection is occurring behind the scenes with no impact on anyone’s daily activities.  It’s common knowledge that Google already has all our data anyway.  If I’m not doing anything wrong, why not use the data to track terrorist?

Miss Alabama Mary Margaret McCord probably summed up the feelings of most of America last weekend:  “So I would rather someone track my telephone messages and felt safe wherever I go than feel like they’re encroaching on my privacy.”

Really?  So the next time you call your gynecologist, speak for 15 minutes, and then call a couple of friends and finally call Planned Parenthood later that day, you’re OK with all this being in a government database?  Well, I guess since they are only recording metadata and not call content, no one will ever know what you were talking about.

Or maybe you have a phone conversation with an HIV testing service, then your doctor, and then your insurance company all within a couple of hours.  Again, no call content was recorded.  I’m sure your privacy will be safe.

Or how about the phone call you received from the local NRA office?  Within a half-hour, calls were placed from your phone to your Representative and Senators.  The IRS audit notice you received the next week was surely just a coincidence.

In reality, we will all behave differently given the knowledge that the NSA is recording our electronic communications.  We will self-censor and not exercise our right to act, believe and express ourselves in a manner that we choose.  We will lose a portion of our liberty.

For what have we traded our liberty?  We are told that these programs are needed to capture terrorists.  However, we’ve received very few details of who or when.  In addition, we are told this unbounded surveillance program is the only way to secure our country and protect our livelihoods.  I find this assertion doubtful.  We are told that a secret court administers this program and protects our privacy, but we are told nothing of the actions of this court.  It’s all classified.  To quote Patrick Henry, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

To this, I will have to say thanks, but no thanks.  We’re Americans.  Tyranny is not our pedigree.  Liberty is the better way.  The NSA domestic spy programs must stop now.

Until next time, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker


Human Asteroids Kinects

Human Asteroids Kinects (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 6-6-13)

Human Asteroids Kinects – Undoubtedly, the Arcade classic Asteroids is one of the greatest video games of all time.  Asteroid’s simplicity allowed players of all ages to compete while still bringing a challenge to the more sophisticated gamers.  It’s too bad that games like Asteroids are lost in high-resolution and interconnected gaming consoles of today.  What would it take to bring back a game like Asteroids?

The Kinect sensor may be the ticket to bring this game back to life.  The Maker group Two Bit Circus has created a life-sized version of Asteroids.  Human Asteroids puts the user in the middle of the action.  With a Kinect mounted up high and a projector painting the asteroids on the floor, the player becomes the spaceship.  With a smart phone in-hand to monitor spaceship orientation, the player navigates the asteroids and starts breaking big rocks into small rocks.

No word on how they implemented hyperspace.  I’m guessing they left it for version 2.0.

Hunger Hype – The run-up to the Hunger Games sequel has officially started.  Check out the faux website  The cover story this month is on Effie Trinket, the escort for the victorious District 12 tributes.  Let the games begin!

PvZ2 – The sequel to a modern day classic is also on its way.  Plants vs. Zombie 2 is scheduled for release on July 18.  For those of you who are not familiar with PvZ, let me just start out by saying it is exactly what you think: A crazy old prepper uses genetically altered plants to protect his house from mind-eating zombies.  Who would have ever thought that plants and zombie were mortal enemies?  Check out the trailer at 

Is That a Squirrel? – Some say it’s irrefutable evidence that life exists on Mars.  Others says is proof that the space program is a government conspiracy.  As for me, I take it for what it is.  A picture of a squirrel…on the planet Mars.

If you haven’t seen the picture yet, here it is.

PastedGraphic-1-mars squirrel

The picture was taken by the NASA rover Curiosity on September 28, 2012.  Officially, it’s just one of those random rock things that occurs given the infinite nature of the universe.  Personally, I can’t help singing the Phineas and Ferb “Squirrels In My Pants” bit every time I look at it.  (Come to think of it, wasn’t Candice also the Queen of Mars?  Hmmm…)

Rickroll Vine – Vine is in the news again this week.  First, Vine released its Android apps.  That’s cool.  On a more interesting note, a 16-year-old web developer circumvented the 6-second video limit and rickrolled the site by uploading the entire Rick Astley video “Never Gonna Give You Up.”  Say what you want, but I’ve always kind of liked that song.

Until next week, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker