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Sunday March 08, 2015
uTorrent has gone rogue
I was surprised when I installed a recent OS X update and it hi-jacked two browsers without user consent. Some looking around showed that there were others complaining about malware too. I rolled back to an older version, warned whoever I could and vowed never to trust the company again.
And today, there's this little gem on TorrentFreak:
Many users of the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent are complaining about it silently installing a cryptocurrency miner with a recent update. The Epic Scale tool, which slows down host computers, is reportedly being installed without consent and for some is particularly hard to remove.
uTorrent had two things going for it: a no-nonsense, lightweight app and street cred among people like me who have used and loved the app for years. Looks like they traded both in for some $$$.
Wednesday March 04, 2015
Super-sized Newsletter for Mar 2, 2015 - Codename: Freezing Feathers
1. Newsletter Editorial
Hello and welcome to other edition of the DonationCoder newsletter. It's been a whopping 127 days since the last newsletter, and in that time.. New threads started: 861; new posts: 8,995 (number of those deleted as spam: 242); new members who joined: 10,133; new donors: 609.
The first thing to talk about is the 2015 NANY (New Apps for the New Year) event, which wrapped up at the beginning of the year. It's where we ask the coders who hang out on DonationCoder to create some new piece of free software and share it with the world. We had a lot of fun as always, and there were some notable new tools created. I tried my hand coding an Android app and I'm interested in making some more -- if you have a good idea for an Android app, let me know. Follow the link below to browse the NANY 2015 entries from this year.
The next thing to mention is a call for help from Martin Brinkmann, who runs the Ghacks software blog. He's asking for donations to help run Ghacks. Ghacks has always been a friend to DonationCoder, writing about our new software releases and events. So I'm hoping you will join us in helping out a friend of small independent coders. See the link below to read more.
Last on the agenda is a teaser for our big upcoming 10th anniversary fundraiser. March 23, 2015 will mark the tenth year of DonationCoder (hard to believe it's been that long isn't it?). After ten years, it's time for some real changes on the site, and we are going to need your help figuring out which direction to go in. There's a link below to a thread for discussing the upcoming anniversary, but I'll be sending out a special mailing when the fundraiser starts, asking not just for your financial help but also your input on the future direction of the site. I hope you'll join us while we chart our path forward.
Source 2 (Engine by Valve) will be free for content developers
And now an announcement by Valve that the next version of their game engine, Source 2, will be free for developers:
Valve’s sudden entry into the engine race, with an official announcement of Source 2, seems to have put them right up front alongside frenzied rivals Unity and Unreal. (Poor old Crytek, eh?) Meeting with studio founder Erik Johnson today, I learned that when they say Source 2 is “free”, they mean it. Unlike Unity’s (much lowered) subscription rates (for larger teams), and Epic’s revenue cut of successful projects, Valve won’t be asking for any money at all. Well, sort of… They just require that the game be launched on Steam, along with anywhere else you might want to sell it.
That’s pretty huge. But it’s important to point out it’s also pretty smart. In real-terms, it does mean Valve are going to be getting – in fact – 30% of your revenue, as is standard for anything sold on Steam. However, and crucially, developers are going to be free to also sell their game anywhere else, which means you can also use stores that take far lower cuts. Use Source 2, put your game on Steam and take advantage of Steamworks, the community features, and so on, but direct all your customers to your Humble store where only see 5% won’t reach you.
from Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Tuesday March 03, 2015
Unity 5 now free for everyone!
Unity has had a model of a free version vs. a Pro version where many of the nicer features of the engine were available only to folks who owned a license for the Pro version. But today Unity has announced the launch of the latest version of their engine, Unity 5, along with a new license.
The free version is now being called the Personal edition, but all Unity 5 engine features are available for free until you make over $100,000, at which point you must buy a Professional license ($75/mo subscription or $1,500 (about 1.5% of $100,000)) but never any royalties.
More details can be found here:
Unreal Engine 4 is now free* for everyone!
Unreal announced yesterday that Unreal Engine 4 is now free* for everyone. What this means is that you can download and use the software to make a game for free. The only time you have to pay them money is if you are successful, paying 5% gross if you make more than $3,000 per quarter.
Quote from: https://www.unrealengine.com/blog/ue4-is-free
Unreal Engine 4 is now available to everyone for free, and all future updates will be free!
You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation. When you ship a game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter. It’s a simple arrangement in which we succeed only when you succeed.
This is the complete technology we use at Epic when building our own games. It scales from indie projects to high-end blockbusters; it supports all the major platforms; and it includes 100% of the C++ source code. Our goal is to give you absolutely everything, so that you can do anything and be in control of your schedule and your destiny. Whatever you require to build and ship your game, you can find it in UE4, source it in the Marketplace, or build it yourself – and then share it with others.
Read more about it here:
Nice essay on the Prisoner's Dilemma Tournaments
I remember one of the first things that got me truly interested in artificial intelligence as a young kid was talking with my father about a Scientific American article on the "Prisoner's Dilemma" with my father.
It's a wonderfully rich and accessible mathematical/game-theory problem, made all the more exciting by the idea of having these tournaments that pit different strategies against each other.
And another more recent interesting discussion: http://www.scientificamer...operation-into-question1/
Saturday February 28, 2015
A comprehensive commentary on (mobile) app/site "onboarding"
For those interested in user interface design -- especially in the mobile app world, here's a website that does a pretty impressive job of examining, critiquing, and comparing the signup ("onboarding" in fancy lingo) process for different apps:
Friday February 27, 2015
Ghacks is dying and needs your help
Martin Brinkman, who started the Ghacks blog back in 2005, has written a post asking for some financial support from all of us who have benefited from his writing over the years.
A search of the donationcoder forum turns up HUNDREDS of posts mentioning ghacks, and few websites can match ghacks in terms of caring about independent coders.. Martin always spreads the word when he spots a new DonationCoder app he thinks is useful.
So I'd like to ask everyone who wants to show some support for ghacks to go over and read martin's post here:
We small independent sites need to stick together and support each other! I have donated a small amount on behalf of DonationCoder folks, but if you can donate a few bucks to him, please do. If you can't then consider taking a minute to at least post a comment of support on this blog to let him know his work is appreciated!
And let's show Martin that we DC people do not forget our friends.
False Positives OpEd from WinPatrol
At DonationCoder we've discussed False Positives and how they affect freeware/OSS developers. It's good to see an OpEd from someone in the security side of the industry and how it affects them as a company.
Antivirus industry deluding itself
The one thing this doesn't address is the costs with submitting software for the "Trusted Source" initiative, both in man hours and money, and the fact that to people that don't make a living off of selling software, it can seem like this is aimed at squeezing out Freeware and OSS contributors.
In fact, if you look at the bottom of the announcement from Google, you'll see that this isn't just an idle fear.
So what are the next steps? We are looking to grow our collection of trusted software, if you happen to be a very large software development company you might want to contact us in order to share this data and help us mitigate the issue of false positives. Please note that this initiative is not open to potentially unwanted applications and adware developers.
And the bad thing? The emphasis isn't mine.
So where does this leave you with google automagically blocking and deleting files that the user downloads if you're not large enough to be one of the trusted vendors?
Out in the cold.
Thursday February 26, 2015
Artificial intelligence bests humans at classic arcade games
There has been some buzz recently around a few articles that demonstrate machine learning in the video game domain.
Here's one writeup:
Artificial intelligence bests humans at classic arcade games
For the academically inclines, I would recommend:
Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning
Which talks in detail about the methods used.
The use of the term "deep" seems to me to be as much about coming up with a catchy term that has gone viral and is being hyped like mad -- and has little innovation behind it -- but the new wave of practitioners using neural networks for large scale problems are getting undeniably impressive results.
Again, getting back to the video game results:
There is nothing particularly novel in the approach -- the domain is wonderful, and the basic focus on using the same architecture and parameters to tackle a large collection of learning problems -- and using large dimensional raw input, is great. And the results are impressive. Again -- in my mind this is more a story of the new wave of practioners who are getting very good at leveraging fairly standard neural network techniques on larger and larger problems.
Having said that, this line of work offers little qualitative improvement on the hard problems in AI -- on serious multiscale hierarchical planning, scene recognition, etc. For that we are still waiting for some paradigm shifts.
Tuesday February 24, 2015
Logitech G910 Keyboard Review
MSR Price: $179.99
The Logitech G910 Keyboard, dubbed the 'Orion Spark', immediately caught my attention. I've long before standardized on the Logitech series of peripherals after vacillating between several brands, and now have the Logitech G13 Keypad, G930 Wireless Headphones, G710+ Keyboard, and G602 mouse. I have several other Logitech peripherals also- they've been pretty reliable with dependable and easy to use software (that comes into play later), and features that fully leverage the uses of the peripheral in question.
In general, because of my use of the G13, I don't really use the keyboard for anything but chatting/typing and anything I couldn't fit on my profile. But for development, I've found that the feel of the gaming keyboards is better suited than most of the non-gaming class keyboards. So I didn't really have that many needs or expectations going into this. The primary things I liked were the lighting options, the romer-g switches, and the Arx control integration. The Arx control is an app that you download on your Android or iOS device, and it communicates with your devices attached to your computer, to show layouts of controls, resources of the computer, and even control the launching of games and such. It divorces the UI elements that they've been trying to integrate into devices from the device itself, which I thought was a good idea.
Unboxing, the G910 seemed a bit flimsy in construction compared to the G710+. The G710+ feels really solid, and like it's built to last for years, the G910 hails back to the more flimsy construction of prior lower end keyboards like the G15. It has only one cord, which was better than the G710+, but it has no passthroughs, so that explains the simpler connections. But as I've never used passthroughs, that wasn't a concern. Connecting it was a breeze as usual, but then I found that it didn't show up in my Logitech Gaming Software. After some research online, I found that they had made several updates to the gaming software, and one of them introduced the G910, so that made sense. Downloading it, I ran into my first problem. The site didn't let me download the 64-bit version of the software, and the 32 bit version won't install on a 64-bit system. After some research, I found that it was mirrored on another site because this has apparently been a problem on the Logitech site for a few months now. Troubling, but at least I got the software.
The software was all it said it was and more. You could customize it to the nth degree- both hardware and software uses. It added functionality to my already installed peripherals. And the ability to light up regions on the keyboard in different colors based on the game profile- it made me think of using my keyboard more and my G13 less.
The keys are strangely shaped, but I became used to it quickly- they have a beveled area in the center of the key, which really helps to increase my typing speed strangely enough, and give feedback that my finger is positioned in the key. The switches themselves, I didn't notice much difference between them and cherry MX brown keys. They do have an o-ring around each key, which gives a bit of dead space when the key is clicked, which I don't really like as I love the clickiness of mechanical keyboards, but I got used to it.
It seemed the perfect keyboard, but as time went on, I began to become less enamored. It was more a function of the software update rather than the keyboard itself however.
As I stated, you can program the game to respond to the profile that you have loaded, and color keys according to that profile. But in the case that you aren't gaming, you have to go into the software and switch it from profile lighting scheme to another scheme, or all of your keys won't be lit-up. An annoyance, but with the SDK I knew I could program something that would take care of this, and it was pretty well detailed and simple, even if I was going to have to do a refresher on LUA as the scripting language uses it.
The larger issue was the memory usage/footprint. Normally it ranges around 40M to 70M or so with the UI open for LCore.exe- the main program. I was playing a game, and the game was all of a sudden responding less after an extended gaming session. The LCore process was using 4GB(!) of RAM. I found several references, both on their forums and on other outlets to this- it has been a problem since build 145 was released last year. One was even in a review, though it didn't affect the final score as "they have to fix it at some point". Apparently not, as they've barely acknowledged it, and refer you to a user workaround, which is a stopgap measure, and disables the use of the Arx control and resets your lighting profiles each time you use it.
I've also tried my own workarounds- one was using Process Governor (great app, by the way) to limit the amount of memory that it could allocate. I figured it would catch it, close, and I could just restart it. It doesn't handle out of memory exceptions at all, and crashed my computer 3x before I gave up on that approach. So I tried to create a batch file that would use pskill to kill it on demand, and then restart it. Apparently, after restarting it, the memory leak is even worse, because I've noticed that actually starting the process, I can watch it gobble memory. As a last resort, I coded something to use the memory level to trigger the restart, but that's when I found out how bad the memory leak actually was- once it starts getting higher in usage, the scale of memory loss is not a standard progression, and so it would shoot past my set limit before I could do anything about it.
I really love the keyboard. But the software is killing it. I'm comntemplating whether to return it (it was a gift, so doing so involves more than just taking it back), or just hoping that they fix the software eventually. My personal verdict? Give it a pass for now.
Reference to threads:
Monday February 23, 2015
Internet Lynch Mobs
'Overnight, everything I loved was gone': the internet shaming of Lindsey Stone
When a friend posted a photograph of charity worker Lindsey Stone on Facebook, she never dreamed she would lose her job and her reputation. Two years on, could she get her life back?
Scary stuff. And at least some form of justification for the slightly paranoid way that I handle online identity.
Friday February 20, 2015
Preloaded spyware, courtesy Lenovo
It seems that Lenovo has been preloading their consumer grade laptops with ad-injecting spyware.
Even worse, this particular spyware installs its own root certificate and serves fake certificates on the fly.
You can read more about it here.
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