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Andy Baio lives here



Last Build Date: Tue, 19 Jan 2016 12:49:19 -0800

Copyright: Copyright 2016
 



Pirating the Oscars 2016

Tue, 19 Jan 2016 12:49:19 -0800

Every year since 2003, I've tracked the illicit distribution of Oscar-nominated films online in the ongoing war between Hollywood, the MPAA, and a bunch of scrappy kids on IRC. I just updated all the data in my spreadsheet, now encompassing 445 nominated films from the last 14 years. You can view or download the data on Google Sheets. In my analysis last year, I wrote about how the percentage of screener leaks seemed to be going down for the last few years. While increased accountability for Academy members and greater awareness of tracking tools may have contributed to the decline, it seemed more likely that DVD screeners themselves were growing obsolete. Movie studios have been slow to adapt to Blu-ray for Oscar screeners, making them unappealing for online piracy groups compared to other HD sources. The exception is when the screener is the only copy of a film that's available, and thanks to the efforts of a single group this year, we saw a small spike in the number of leaked screeners. A group named Hive-CM8 released an incredible 15 screeners in the nine days between December 20-29, almost all nominated for Oscars: The Hateful Eight, Creed, Legend, In the Heart of the Sea, Steve Jobs, Joy, Concussion, The Danish Girl, Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, Spectre, Trumbo, Suffragette, The Big Short, and Anomalisa. They originally promised to release a total of 40 screeners, but stopped short either because of a security breach or a guilty conscience, depending on who you believe. As a result, screeners for fully half of this year's 32 nominated films have already leaked online. The median number of days from a film's release to its first leak online was only nine days, the shortest window since 2008. Only one nominee hasn't leaked online in any form: the Brazilian film Boy & the World, nominated for Best Animated Feature. A webrip of Boy & the World was released on September 30, 2014. More than a month before the ceremony, 97% of Oscar nominees have leaked online in DVD or higher quality, more than last year at this time. Also worth noting: the number of camcorder and telesync releases continues to decline, with only five of this year's nominees released as cams. This is partly because they're low quality, but also attributed to fewer mainstream films nominated for Oscars. (Only major blockbusters like Star Wars tend to be worth the risk and trouble to record in theaters.) Methodology This year, I very nearly had to abandon the project because reliable sources for leak metadata continue to disappear. Orlydb went offline entirely, VCD Quality is woefully outdated for film releases, and others have stopped tracking films entirely. Fortunately, I was able to find one comprehensive database: d00per, which is the sole source for all leak metadata this year. If you know of any reliable secondary sources for a pre-db with a decent search engine, let me know. (You can test with Anomalisa and Hateful Eight, which seem to be missing from all but d00per.) For my spreadsheet, I include the full-length feature films in every Oscar category except documentary and foreign films -- even music, makeup, and costume design. I use IMDB for the release dates, always using the first available U.S. date, even if it was a limited release. The official screener release dates are from Academy member Ken Rudolph, who kindly lists the dates he receives each screener on his personal homepage. Questions, corrections, or additions? Get in touch on Twitter or leave a comment. [...]



The First Round Capital Holiday Train Wreck

Thu, 17 Dec 2015 09:49:52 -0800

Your annual reminder of the hidden costs of taking venture capital is here — it's the First Round Capital Holiday Video, a yearly cringe-fest of startups parodying the year's biggest pop hits, with lyrics tweaked to reflect the worst of startup culture. (Full lyrics at the end of the post.)

width="550" height="309" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/snw9HXERbjU?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

I have a grim fascination with these videos and their ever-increasing production budgets. Every year, I watch them with my hands shielding my eyes, and collect them in a YouTube playlist. (For some reason, 2009's video is only on Vimeo.)

width="550" height="309" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLI6R9qwXherYN-t6uci5E7tCzl8CBL8-5" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

Of course, if you ask First Round about it, and probably most of the founders in the video, they'll say, it's all in fun! We're just blowing off some steam at the end of the year! I know one of the partners at First Round. I know some of the people at the startups in the videos. I don't think their intentions are bad.

But once these startups have taken funding, do they really have a choice?

This year, Crunchbase says First Round invested in 57 startups, a median amount of $8.5M and an average of $18.5 million.

If someone gives you $8.5 million, sits on your board, and owns a significant part of your company, you're going to dance if they say "dance." You're going to sing if they say "sing."

And you'll ask your entire team to do it too, and they'll be captured on video, streamable on YouTube for years after they quit or were laid off.

In a situation like that, you can't really say no. You just put on the costume, smile, and dance.

Continue reading... 



If Drake Was Born A Piano

Thu, 21 Feb 2013 12:15:23 -0800

This morning, my friend Charles pointed me to a song on Tumblr that blew up, a remix of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

The original poster deleted it, so I'm mirroring it here.

width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/237727051&color=ff9900&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false">

It's a terrible and amazing thing to listen to — a conversion of the original MP3 to MIDI, and back again to MP3. The resulting version sounds like Mariah as a player piano — none of the original recording is preserved, only a series of hyperactive notes matching the frequencies of the original song.

Incredibly, you can still make out the lyrics and music, though likely only if you're familiar with the original song.


It reminds me of this German project from 2009, in which Austrian composer Peter Ablinger used a computer-controlled piano to play a child's voice.

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/muCPjK4nGY4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>


So I had to try out a couple other songs to see how it sounds. I'm pretty happy with the results. Enjoy.

src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/149079243?color=f1592d&portrait=0" width="550" height="309" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen>

src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/149070596?color=f1592d&portrait=0" width="550" height="310" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen>

width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/237767091&color=ff9900&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false">

width="550" height="309" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5nFYYTisiYA?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

I joked about it on Twitter, but I'm not sure many knew I was serious. The reformed Ben Folds Five is unsigned.

After releasing their first three albums on Sony, Ben Folds Five decided to fund their album on Pledge Music and release it independently.

They easily could've released it through a label — Ben Folds is still signed to Sony/Epic for his solo work and Darren Jesse through Bar/None. Why do it all on their own?

Because they could.

 



Playfic Turns One

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 15:05:37 -0800

Playfic, my little interactive-fiction platform, turned one year old on Friday. I rounded up some recent news about it just last month, so I'm not going to retread that territory.

But I was starting to feel guilty about ignoring it, so I added some new tools for exploring the archive of 650+ games, sketches, and silly experiments.

You can now see the most popular games, all the games I've featured, the most recently published games, and my personal favorite, the games with the longest source code.

This surfaced a whole bunch of interesting games I hadn't seen, so I freshened up the featured section with some new picks.

Playfic was always intended to be an experiment, yet another tool of creative expression and a quick way for people to experiment with Inform 7. I really wasn't expecting much out of it, but I've been happy to see people slowly discover the community and find new uses for it.


Update: Releasing any platform for creative expression often comes with unintended consequences. For Playfic, one of the biggest surprises was seeing it used by educators, something I never intended.

Most recently, I just discovered this high school teacher using Playfic to teach interactive fiction in the classroom. I was a little stunned to see a room full of high school students playing interactive fiction for the first time on iPads, starting with Cooper's first game:

width="550" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/00vEyUvPrkM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

Games being created by high-school students and played by high-school students. How awesome is that?

 



More Angry Songs about Record Labels

Fri, 01 Feb 2013 09:03:20 -0800

The undiscovered young talent gets their big break and a record deal, and soon realizes they were swindled by corrupt management and a major label. It's an old story, and a common theme that pops up in rock songs, often from well-established bands. (Though it seems especially common the '70s.) After writing about Macklemore's "Jimmy Iovine" for my Indiepocalypse post yesterday, I stumbled on several more great angry songs about record labels. They didn't fit into the post, but I still wanted to share them. Graham Parker and the Rumour - Mercury Poisoning (1979) I got a dinosaur for a representative, It's got a small brain and refuses to learn Their promotion's so lame, They could never ever take me to the real ball game Listen, I ain't a pet, I ain't a token hipster in your Monopoly set. I've got Mercury poisoning. It's fatal and it don't get better! width="300" height="300" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ws_DmRZXWBw?rel=0"> The Clash - Complete Control (1977) They said we'd be artistically free when we signed that bit of paper They meant let's make a lotsa money and worry about it later I'll never understand Complete control, lemme see your other hand I don't trust you, so why should you trust me? width="300" height="300" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7TcKiC2yB0s?rel=0"> Nick Lowe - I Love My Label (1977) Deeply sarcastic, Lowe tossed off this track to get out of his major label deal with United Artists. Oh I'm so proud of them up here, we're one big happy family I guess you could say I'm the poor relation of the parent company They always ask for lots of songs, but no more than 2:50 long so I write 'em some They never talk behind my back, and they're always playing my new tracks when I come along width="300" height="300" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Nn4AOQeiR0w?rel=0"> Lynyrd Skynyrd - Workin' For MCA (1974) MCA signed the young band for a seven year deal for $9,000. Oh, nine thousand dollars just to sow to the wind. Come to smile at the yankee slicker with a big old southern grin. They're gonna take me out to California, gonna make me a superstar. Just pay me all my money, maybe you won't get a scar. Want you to sign the contract, want you to sign the date. Gonna give you lots of money Workin' for MCA. width="300" height="300" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/pUpJlui_Y4I?rel=0"> Sex Pistols - E.M.I. (1977) In October 1978, EMI signed the Sex Pistols to a two-year contract, but dropped them only three months later. They were quickly picked up by A&M, and dropped less than a week later. Virgin finally released their debut in May 1977, their third label in six months. Don't judge a book just by the cover Unless you cover just another And blind acceptance is a sign Of stupid fools who stand in line Like E.M.I. width="300" height="300" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/kjbie1O1jxc?rel=0"> The Smiths - Paint A Vulgar Picture (1987) World tour, media whore, please the press in Belgium. This was your life. And when it fails to recoup? Well, maybe you just haven't earned it yet, baby. width="300" height="300" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/08Zc17YQzdk?rel=0"> In one sense, this is the ultimate first-world problem — successful musicians complaining about bad business deals. Then again, for decades, signing with a major label was the only game in town if you wanted to find success in the music industry, and the labels exploited that monopoly. But overall, I tend to agree with Trent Reznor, who said, "I don't set out to write songs about record labels. Nothing could be more boring—with the possible exception of writing about tour buses." [...]



The Indiepocalypse

Thu, 31 Jan 2013 12:30:22 -0800

For the first time in two decades, an indie artist is topping the Billboard charts. For the last three weeks, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop" has remained at the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100, beating the likes of Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. width="549" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/QK8mJJJvaes" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The only other unsigned artist to ever hit #1 was Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)" in 1994, when her friend Ethan Hawke gave the track to Ben Stiller to include on the Reality Bites soundtrack. She quickly signed to a major label, releasing her debut album the following year with Geffen Records. Lisa Loeb switched to a label as soon as she could because, in 1994, it was the only way to finance a full album, nationwide tour, market an album, get radio/TV airplay, and get distribution to record stores. That prized record deal didn't work out the way she'd hoped. Four years before Lisa Loeb joined Geffen, the label was acquired by MCA, later renamed to Universal Music Group. She ended up on Interscope/A&M, one of Universal's many subsidiaries, where she received less-than-stellar treatment. "They became a really big label and I felt they weren't focusing a lot on music," Loeb said in 2003. "They had executives telling you one thing one day and then telling you something different the next. They couldn't deliver on their promises." A planned music video was rejected by the label because they disagreed with the concept. In the end, she had to negotiate to buy the rights to her own master recordings from Interscope. Lisa Loeb wanted her work to be heard and she wanted to make a living doing what she loved, so she sacrificed her creative and financial control to get there. For hundreds of years, publishers across every industry — book publishers, record labels, film studios, videogame publishers — solved problems for artists in four major ways: Funding. The cost of creating a new work, paying the artist's expenses during the creation process, often with an advance. Production. Design, manufacturing, and printing of the finished product. Marketing. Going on tour, making a video, promotion in various media outlets. Distribution. Getting the product into people's hands. And how does this play out now? Digital distribution subverted the monopolies held by physical distribution, bypassing distribution deals with record stores entirely, allowing artists to sell directly to fans. Social media and online music services changed the way people discover music, making the payola systems of MTV and radio airplay feel quaint. Production costs dropped dramatically as computers became more powerful and audio editing software got dirt cheap, along with new services for printing on demand. And, finally, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms offset the financial risk to artists. Most importantly, each new platform let artists find, communicate, and sell directly to their fans. Music is hardly alone here. Videogames, film, comics, books, product design, hardware, software, board games, whatever. Hackers and makers across every form of art are finding their fan bases, interacting with them, and selling to them. We're at the beginning of an indiepocalypse — a global shift in how culture is made, from a traditional publisher model to independently produced and distributed works. Artists that were royally screwed over in the past now have an alternative. As high-profile artists keep popping up across every industry, other artists will inevitably follow. For every Louis CK or Amanda Palmer, there are 10,000 other artists ready to wake up and try something new. It will be the default state for new artists, and a rising trend among artists with existing fanbases. Publishers will have to evolve just to stay alive. Labels, studios, and other publishers can provide huge value — they can take care of the bullshi[...]



NRA's New Commercial Made Truthy

Wed, 16 Jan 2013 10:16:58 -0800

The NRA's new Stand and Fight ad is completely truthful and accurate... if you turn it off at the right time. I took the liberty of fixing it for them.

width="549" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/gNWZfDxvpVY?vq=hd720" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

 



Aaron

Wed, 16 Jan 2013 08:00:00 -0800

Last Thursday, on my last night after working a few days in NYC, I pulled together a little meetup of a few friends at Spitzer's, a great little restaurant in the Lower East Side. On a frigid Manhattan night, we all cozied up against the bar in the warm, crowded backroom for conversation and rounds of Spaceteam over craft beer.

Fred noticed him first, sitting in the middle of a long table nearby, five people deep on either side. The place was packed and it was hard to reach him, but I waved from across the room, trying to catch his eye. No luck. He was deep in conversation, smiling and chatting. I thought he looked happy. I was wrong.

It was the first time I'd seen him in years, but I decided not to bug him, figuring I could catch up with him some other time. I made a mental note to drop him a line next time I was in NYC.

The next day, he was gone.


Watching him grow up online, he felt like the Internet's little brother. His young age betrayed a deep drive and talent, leading him to accomplish so much in so little time. It was intimidating to people twice his age.

By the time I met him at Foo Camp in 2005, I knew way too much about him. I knew about his work with RSS and Creative Commons, I'd followed his crushes and frustrations on his personal blog through his awkward college years, and I was an avid reader of his Google blog.

He was one of the first people to sign up for Upcoming.org, on the second day it was live, and occasionally sent me valuable feedback. After Upcoming was acquired, he was the first person to visit us, on our second day in the office, on November 2, 2005. The photos he took of us and the gaudy Yahoo campus were the first he ever posted to Flickr.

We sat down for dinner at the end of a long day in URL's, the Yahoo cafeteria, and talked about supertasters and the web. He struck me as someone who was curious, brave, idealistic, and occasionally immature — the kind of person who gets shit done.


We'd talked online occasionally, but it'd been years since I'd seen him last as he went on to change the world — merging Infogami with Reddit, liberating the PACER and Library of Congress datasets, starting Open Library and Demand Progress, and helping to crush SOPA. And, yes, busting into an MIT closet to download millions of academic papers.

Yep, he got shit done.

I never got a chance to say goodbye, but my last glimpse is how I'll remember him. The center of a modern-day Last Supper, holding court over grilled cheese sandwiches in a Lower East Side bar, surrounded by people who loved him.

Goodnight, Aaron.

 



Inglewood Police Chase, Synchronized Split-Screen

Tue, 15 Jan 2013 13:14:29 -0800

Today, a video's making the rounds of a Southern California car chase that jumped from the TV to real life, giving one young man a front-row seat to the action.

I was curious to see if the video was matched up to the local TV news broadcast, so I synchronized the two videos side-by-side to see. The results are below (view full screen):

width="549" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xiIgYVgGT6s?vq=hd720" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

There are two versions in the video. First, synchronized to the TV broadcast on screen, and second, to real-life events.

Note that the TV broadcast is exactly ten seconds behind real-life, with the news station operating on a ten-second delay. Live news commonly uses a five- to ten-second delays for unpredictable live coverage, like the recent car chase that ended in suicide accidentally broadcast by FOX News.

As much as I was hoping to debunk this, it appears to be real (or a particularly convincing fake).

 



Glitch: The Text Adventure, and Other Fun with Playfic

Fri, 04 Jan 2013 08:54:59 -0800

Nearly a year ago, my nephew Cooper and I launched Playfic, a community for writing and sharing interactive fiction games from your browser. I haven't talked about the site much, and have barely touched it since we launched, but I've been delighted to see people slowly discover it and use it in interesting ways. Unfortunately, I'm the only one privy to these delights, since I never got around to building a good way to browse or search them. So far, there have been over 600 games created on Playfic. While many of them have been simple sketches or tests, over 20% have more than 1,000 words in the source code. What kind of things have people made on Playfic? Some of my favorites so far: An absurd dream world full of Jungian symbolism A jetpack simulator. Doctor Who fanfic and The TARDIS. A port of Homestar Runner's Thy Dungeonman Sherlock fanfic A geography game winding through the continental U.S. states My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic meets dark, existential dread But two of my favorite examples happened in the last two weeks. First, Wired's Chris Kohler published an interview with Infocom's Dave Lebling and Steve Meretzky as an interactive fiction game. The game was written on Playfic and embedded in the article. As if that wasn't awesome enough, today came the first release of Text Glitch, a very early attempt to port the wonderfully creative Glitch multiplayer game to a text adventure. id="embed" frameborder="0" width="540px" height="500px" src="http://playfic.com/parchment/?game=/releases/c/ce2fb4a7-b3c3-4bf9-84e5-36aa89604b55/ce2fb4a7-b3c3-4bf9-84e5-36aa89604b55.z8"> In short, the brilliant Rev. Dan Catt took the locations and items from the last snapshot of the Glitch Encyclopedia, parsed it, and spit out Inform 7 source suitable for Playfic. It's very alpha, only covering the Alakol region, and doesn't have any interactive elements beyond simple exploration yet, but for fans of Glitch, it's a trip. I was a big admirer of Glitch, and very sad when it closed its doors last month. I love the idea of preserving its collective memory in a text world you can explore. This is exactly the kind of surprising thing I was hoping to see on Playfic. Give people a new outlet for creative expression, and they'll find it and use it. Simply by making it easier for anyone to screw around with Inform 7 and share interactive fiction from their browser, crazy awesome things emerge. I hope to do some work on it this weekend to help shine a light on some more of the wonderful things the community's created. [...]



The Unified Theory of XOXO

Fri, 07 Dec 2012 10:01:50 -0800

Nearly three months have passed since XOXO, and I'm still digesting what happened in Portland on those warm September days. The writeups on The Verge, Boing Boing, and Wired summed it nicely, and I did a big roundup of reactions from attendees and the press over on Kickstarter. In case you couldn't make it, we released the videos for every talk last week, over seven hours of video from 24 amazing speakers. There are too many great talks to mention, but personal highlights include Dan Harmon, Chris Poole, R. Stevens, Julia Nunes, and Adam Savage. Here's my opening talk from the conference portion of the festival, a quick ten minutes talking about what XOXO means and how it happened: width="550" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/BCUUyE3hhNQ?hd=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Last month, I was the opening talk at Farmhouse Conf in Los Angeles, attended Andy McMillan's Build in Belfast, participated in the Open Internet Preservation Society at Mozilla Festival in London, and gave the closing talk at Beyond Tellerand in Düsseldorf. At each event, I've started looking at them from a new perspective, hoping to learn what works and what to avoid, if we ever do XOXO again. A big event, like any startup, is a series of small decisions that roll up into a joyful or miserable user experience. I've talked a bit about the philosophy behind XOXO and what we were hoping to accomplish — celebrating independent artists and hackers using tech to make a living doing what they love. But I haven't talked at all about the logistics of running the festival, and all the decisions we made that made it unique. After organizing Build for three years, XOXO was Andy McMillan's fourth major event, but my first time organizing anything bigger than 50 people. From Build, Andy came equipped with concrete ideas about what makes a great conference. I didn't have any experience running an event, but I've been to enough conferences to know what I like. Fortunately, we have very, very similar tastes. Put simply, I designed the festival that I wanted to see in the world, with the hope that enough attendees shared my interests — if you care about the things I do, you probably had a great time at XOXO. Speaking only for myself, here's why I think XOXO worked and what we were trying to do. Tone XOXO was a snark-free zone, a reaction to the cynicism and knee-jerk contrarianism that's so prevalent online. Playful, sincere, supportive, and meaningful. I wanted them to feel comfortable enough to approach strangers and make new friends. I never wanted them to feel like they were being marketed to. I wanted people to experience everything I love about Portland, have great food and drink, and never feel bored or confused. More than anything, we tried to optimize XOXO for fun. During our opening comments, I took a moment to encourage everyone to approach people standing alone, or join groups of people they don't know, knowing that everyone was supportive and nobody would be turned away. At the closing party, I heard self-described introverts tell me this guidance fundamentally changed their experience of a conference. They weren't stumbling around alone anymore. Curation Curation is the most important factor of a great event. A clear editorial voice, a coherent theme, and who you invite to participate changes everything that comes after it — good curation brings great attendees, generates word-of-mouth, great press, and opens all kinds of doors. Curation isn't limited to just picking the speakers. In our case, it included the videogames and their designers in XOXO Arcade, the films and their directors at XOXO Film, the musicians in XOXO Music, every project featured in the Market and Hack Cafe, and all the local food carts on the street. T[...]



Spelunky Pancakes

Mon, 09 Jul 2012 14:09:56 -0800

My eight-year-old son and I are completely obsessed with Spelunky, the brilliant 2D platformer-meets-Roguelike game that launched last week on XBLA.

How obsessed? Yesterday, at brunch at Slappy Cakes, he asked me to make this:

(image)

Tasty!

The new Spelunky is a reboot of the brilliant 8-bit freeware game that Derek Yu released in 2009, still available for Windows, with an unofficial Mac port.

Spelunky borrows two elements I hated back in the 8-bit era — randomized levels and no way to save progress — and makes them eminently enjoyable. Like NetHack meets La-Mulana, Spelunky is brutally hard. Like other Roguelikes, when you die in Spelunky, you're dead. There's no way to continue.

In an interview with Anthony Carboni, Derek Yu said, "When you die and have to start from the beginning, it makes death meaningful, just like in real life." I'd recommend watching the interview, and Derek trying to play his own game, on New Challenger.

width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/46iftwnm0oQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

Unlike other hard games, Spelunky feels fair to me. Every time I die, I know that it was my fault. I never felt cheated because of awkward controls or unpredictable behavior, because the processes running the environment are so consistent and learnable. You can palpably feel yourself mastering the game, learning the mechanics and traps and creature movement and every other detail, until the next time you stupidly fumble.

To feel what it's like to play Spelunky, and how deep it goes, I'd recommend reading Tom Francis' quest to find the lost city of gold.

P.S. Eliot just came downstairs to tell me he finished the Worm level, grabbed the Crysknife, and unlocked the Super Meat Boy character. If you've played the game, you know how hard that is. My boy!

 



Can't Wait for iOS 6? Renegade Developers Trade Access for Cash

Thu, 21 Jun 2012 14:29:18 -0800

Every year, Apple's keynotes hype the latest and greatest iOS software, receive unprecedented media coverage, and tout hundreds of new features on the Apple homepage. But then, like an evil Santa Claus, Apple asks their most passionate fans to wait months to play with the new toys. This year, like the year before, they didn't announce a release date, promising only sometime "this fall." If you're a diehard Apple fan that desperately wants to run a buggy beta version of iOS 6 right now, your only legal option is to shell out the $99 to join the iOS Developer Program. Affordable for a developer, the barrier to entry is high enough to keep out casual fans from accidentally bricking their phones and cluttering up the Genius Bar. But over the last couple years, a cottage industry's popped up around illicit UDID activations — startups exploiting Apple's Developer Program to sell access to prerelease iOS software, usually for less than $10 per device. The craziest thing? Apple doesn't seem to care. Do a search for "UDID Activation" and you'll find a dozen web sites, including some advertising on Google, with SEO-friendly names like ActivateMyiOS, Activate My UDID, UDID Registration, and Instant UDID Activation. Unlike casual registration trading of the past, these new startups offer secure payment options, solid customer support, Twitter and live chat, and quick turnarounds. One service even offers an AppleCare-like guarantee called "SafetyNet" that protects you if you lose your device or buy a new one. Behind the scenes, each service uses the same simple backdoor: Registered iOS developers can activate up to 100 unique device IDs (or UDIDs) for their account, an essential tool for testing apps on multiple devices. Once registered with Apple, the activated device is also able to run prerelease versions of iOS, though developers are forbidden from sharing prerelease software outside their own team. Ignoring these warnings, activation services charge a small fee to add a customer's device to their developer accounts. When they hit the 100-device limit, they just register a new account with Apple. I spoke to the founder of UDID Activation, an activation service based in Galesburg, Illinois, who asked not to be named. "I set up a new Apple developer account every time I need another list," he said. "I have 30 developer accounts, all with the same name and address, and Apple's never said anything." There have been isolated reports of Apple disabling developer accounts, but some of these services have been running uninterrupted for years without any apparent consequences. "It's obvious it's there, and there are tons of people doing it," said UDID Activation's founder. "If they wanted to look into it, it wouldn't be very hard for them to find out what was going on. I've been doing this for about three years and I've never been contacted by Apple, and they've never shut down my accounts or anything. It really does seem like they don't care that much." I chatted over instant message with a support representative from a competing service that claimed to have ten iOS developer accounts and a bot to reactivate expired UDIDs. I asked how often Apple kills their accounts. "Never in five years," he said. Apple clearly states in its Developer Program License Agreement, and on its Developer Portal, that membership can be terminated if a developer provides pre-release Apple Software to anyone other than registered employees, contractors, or others with a demonstrable need to know or use the software to build and test applications. Apple adds that unauthorized distribution is prohibited, and may be subject to both civil and criminal liability. Despite Apple's threat of "civil and criminal liability," t[...]



Busting the iOS 6 Transit Map Myths

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 11:59:39 -0800

There's a ridiculous amount of misinformation spreading online about the new maps in iOS 6, compounded by incorrect press reports, vague statements by Apple, and the developer NDAs. I'm even guilty of spreading it myself, based on reports I'd seen on the blogs. Using information provided to me by an anonymous Apple developer, I've pieced together the facts. Keep in mind that iOS 6 is still prerelease beta, and Apple may change anything at any point. Everything below is based entirely on the existing beta software and documentation that Apple's provided to developers. Were walking directions removed in iOS 6? Some press reports have stated that walking directions are removed from iOS 6. This is completely false, and walking directions are still in iOS 6. Here's a screenshot of walking directions in iOS 6, courtesy of Philip Bump. Were biking directions removed? Bike directions have never been available on the iPhone, and still won't be in iOS 6. Were public transit directions removed? As of this beta, inline public transit directions are gone from the Maps application in iOS 6. Clicking the public transit button will display a list of third-party apps that support routing in the defined map area, and will launch the app when clicked. Here's the current screen in the beta, with no apps registered. By release, this blank screen will be populated with a default list of appropriate apps from the App Store. The documentation states, "If the user's device does not currently contain any routing apps, Maps refers the user to apps on the App Store that do." What about the new Transit APIs? The new Transit APIs, referred to by Scott Forstall at 108:58 in Monday's keynote, allow developers to register their app as a directions provider for routing directions for a particular set of coordinates. It will then be displayed in the list of available third-party apps for transit. Clicking a transit app launches that app, passing the start and end values to the app. Contrary to other analysis, transit routes can't be displayed inline from the Maps app. How do the Transit APIs work? Apps can enable directions support by setting the type of directions they support, a geoJSON file specifying the map regions they support, and uploading it to iTunes Connect. Developers can specify a category (Car, Bus, Train, Subway, Streetcar, Plane, Bike, Ferry, Taxi, Pedestrian, Other). Directions requests from Maps are handled by a special URL. From the documentation: "When the user asks the Maps app for directions and chooses your app, Maps creates a URL with the start and end points and asks your app to open it." From there, the app can "compute and display the route using your custom routing technology." Of course, any of this may change before release. But, for the moment, the APIs simply don't support inline transit routes from within the Maps app. Are Street View photos removed? Yes, these were also provided by Google. Why is Apple doing this? Do they hate public transit?! Of course not. Transit directions aren't in iOS 6 because Apple replaced Google's maps with their own solution, which didn't include access to transit data. Maintaining transit feeds and keeping it up-to-date for hundreds of cities was presumably too difficult to attempt for this first release, so they decided to outsource it to third-party apps. Is Google going to release a Maps app for iOS? We don't know. Google hasn't announced any plans for a native Google Maps for iPhone. And there's a big unknown: if they developed it, would Apple approve it? Hope that helps. Hit me up with any more questions, or if you have internal information, I'll happily honor your anonymity. [...]