If you are familiar with computer graphics, be it in movies or games, you have probably heard the term The Uncanny Valley. In short, the idea is that the closer you approach realism without reaching it the more striking the tiniest flaws become that actually cause the viewer to become more aware of the “falseness” of it. Often you’ll hear people talk about the “dead eyes” because they don’t blink or twitch enough, or problems with the way the mouth forms words not being quite right.
For me, new games that try so hard to be super realistic actually result in me not wanting to stare at their graphics for hours on end. Even my current favorite game, Red Dead Redemption, has issues. Many of the people in that game look overly dirty, and most of the female characters are downright hideous. You could brush that off as “people were dirtier in the Old West” and that might be true, but it still doesn’t look right. That’s why most of the game is played pulled back behind your character. If it was first person and you had to look all these people in the face to interact, it would be very off putting.
All of this is why what a company called Depth Analysis showed off at E3 this year is just so cool. It’s called MotionScan and essentially it takes the current motion capture (the suits people wear to get things like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films) to a whole new level. It scans the entire body, so that not only motions of the limbs are recorded, but facial ticks and lines as well. Just check out this comparison from the above linked article:
John Noble in real life and in MotionScan.
It does look pretty damn impressive. This has me really looking forward to Rockstar’s L.A. Noire which is going to utilize this technology.
You can search all over the Internet and find out about the specifications and tons of opinions on it. Here are mine.
First, I think the name is silly. The people guessing that Apple was making a tablet came up with dozens of better names. Does no one at Apple have access to Google? It would have taken less than five seconds to search “iPad” and find the years old MadTV skit.
Next, I am not impressed. They showed nothing in their presentation that made me want to have one of these over a netbook. However, I see potential. To me, the ultimate success of this device will depend on two things:
- What applications get designed to fully use this device. The best idea I’ve seen floated so far is a “cash register” type application since one of these plus a couple of peripherals is cheaper than most computer registers.
- The next revision of the hardware. Apple is notorious for withholding features. They like to put just enough in a product to make people want it, but hold back enough features to be able to also make revision two, three, and four worth buying too. Expect the next version to have the front facing camera most people feel is missing, and more memory.
Lastly, I think they priced it almost perfectly. The only way it gets better is if AT&T subsidizes the price of the 3G version in exchange for a 2 year contract. Personally, I wouldn’t want the 3G, so it is priced right as it is.
To me, at the moment, the deal breaker is the keyboard. The virtual keyboard looks like it would only be comfortable using if I can manage to have the device at a 45 degree angle allowing me to type and see the screen. This means that I’d either have to be hunched over the device, or to be lounging on the couch with my feet propped up allowing my lap to hold it up at a usable angle. But that’s because the biggest feature of a portable computer for me is writing, and the iPad seems to be aimed more at people who are more interested in reading and watching. This could be saved if someone makes some sort of clip on keyboard and screen protector (i.e. – the keyboard folds up over the screen, kinda like the clam shell design of a laptop). But it would also have to more than double the weight of the device because you can’t have the screen be heavier than the keyboard in that sort of design.
Another missing element for me that I don’t think will ever make it into the Apple design is the ability to use a stylus. I like to do digital art (doodling more than anything) but I don’t like doing it with my finger. Perhaps, if the iPad sells well, Wacom will decide to make the Cintiq into a full blown art tablet.
Overall, as I said before, I see potential, I even see this as being a device that plenty of people could put to good use, but just not me. And that’s okay.
Back in 1998, I had just graduated from college with a degree in computer science and was looking for a job. I had previously worked in technical support and hardware installation. I had also done some Novell network administration. What I really wanted was a programming job. There was a job posting that I recall quite vividly. One of their requirements for the position was “5 years experience with Java”. The problem was that the first public release of Java was in 1996, 1995 if you worked on Sun boxes. In order to have 5 years of experience with Java (1993), you would have had to have worked at Sun. There was another posting that asked for 10 years with Java, a feat not possible unless you had a time machine and repeated a few years since the project that would one day become Java began in 1991.
In the last ten years, things really haven’t changed. Really. I just saw a posting today asking for “20 years experience with Java” … 2008 minus 20 equals 1988… so they want someone with 3 more years experience than the guys who invented Java. Its frustrating to be looking for work and have to deal with crap like that.
Even more exasperating, however, is having positions require samples of your work. Seriously? I’ve been a programmer for the past 6 years, and in those 6 years I have worked on exactly ZERO projects where I was not under and NDA and taking code samples with me couldn’t be prosecuted as theft. I have 6 years of experience, but I have no samples of my work because it would be against the law for me to have them. Sure, I could send them samples of things I have done for myself, but I honestly don’t think WordPress themes and a party invitation managing webpage I wrote are going to be all that impressive to someone who is considering me for a senior level .NET/C# position.
I can only say… would you really want to hire someone to work for you under an NDA if in order to get the job they were willing to break the NDA of their previous job? That’s like being the other woman who’s lover leaves his wife and then being surprised when he cheats on you too…
Some times I really wish I could put aside my morals for personal gain. It would make getting a new job so much easier.
Hi, my name is Jason and you are reading my blog. I am currently looking for work.
Check out my resume!
In short… I’m a computer programmer, been doing ASP.NET and C# for the last four years, and am looking for work in the Atlanta and Northwest of Atlanta (Marietta/Kennesaw/Acworth) area. I’m not looking to relocate unless the company is willing to help me sell me house.
In 1998 I was playing Team Fortress with people I’d known and a larger group that had grown from my earliest days “online” dialing in to BBSs. At the time, I was hanging out in IRC chat on the GamesNet servers, mostly in the Disciples of Syrinx room. I had moved back home with my parents at the end of the previous year after successfully (in my mind) living “on my own” for a few years so that I could focus on school, doubling up my classes, and finish my four year degree in six years (maybe I hadn’t been so successful on my own). I spent my free time, and since I wasn’t working there was quite a bit of it, playing games and reading the .plan files of developers. Mostly it was the id software crew, but there were others. Blogging wasn’t so popular back then, but people did have websites, and game developers, especially in the first person shooter arena, kept up with .plan files. With college nearing its end and loving computer games, I had this idea that I would get into the gaming industry. Months later and many unreturned phone calls and rejection letters, I would set aside that dream, but at that moment, I decided to start maintaining my own .plan.
I did it in IRC at first, so the only people who could read it were people who knew to look and only when I was online with my mIRC client. Soon enough I moved it to Geocities. June 17th, 1998 marked my first post on the internet, and because I’m a pack rat and paranoid about computer crashes, I always kept spare copies of everything, so if you want, you can dig through the archives here and actually read everything from the beginning. After Geocities, I moved to my own domain, loadfix.com. If you try to go there now, it redirects to a .de domain that gives back a 403 Forbidden error. A year later I would move on to squadleader.com with dreams of eventually running an online magazine for first person shooters. I never did, and now that domain is a squatter’s hope for cash (a crap website placeholder of links doing nothing but praying someone wants to buy it). I would have kept squadleader but for one, I wasn’t playing shooters anymore after EverQuest took over my life, and the other reason is it turned out I didn’t own it. Sure, I registered it, paid for it, but my hosting company put everything in their name, so when I tried to switch providers, they kept the name. Thus begins the probablynot.com era.
To be perfectly honest, when I put my first ever posting on the internet, I never thought I’d still be doing it ten years later. In fact it didn’t even cross my mind to consider it. In one respect, its like keeping a diary, and now and then I’ll go back and root around through the old posts and laugh at myself, or shake my head, smile, or nod knowingly. However, unlike a diary, its out there for other people to read. There are times I’ve considered going back and deleting some of the old posts. When I migrated from Coranto to WordPress, I had the perfect opportunity to just lose all the old content, or pick and choose what to put back in, but I ended up importing all of it. Good or bad, I wrote it, its me, or at least was me at the time, and as I’ve written before, if you are happy with who you are, you can’t really regret your past because your past has made you who you are.
However, ultimately, my decision to import all the old posts came down to one thing, that I’ve been doing this, emptying my brain onto the Internet since 1998, for me. When people comment, or send emails, about what I’ve put out there, it feels good, but I’ve never done it for that. I always just wanted to put my thoughts down on “paper” but I didn’t want to hide it under my mattress or in a closet or behind other books on the book shelves where no one would ever see it, because maybe, just maybe, my words might affect someone else, or someone’s reading of my words might affect me. Do I sound emo? I think I sound emo…
Anyway… ten years… some times it just kind of blows my mind a little… well… here’s to the next ten years.
One of the advantages of living in an actual house in an actual neighborhood is the neighborhood garage sales. Everyone carts all their old crap they don’t want anymore out on to their yards and tries to pawn them off on anyone willing to take them away… I mean, people try to divest themselves of things they no longer use and pass them on to people who will make good use of them, for a small fee.
The wife and I decided to take this opportunity to thin out our bookcases and to cut down out CD collection, and even empty a closet or two… and to try to beg people to buy my old computer junk. We dragged out two card tables worth of books, paperbacks and hardcovers, and easily over 400 CDs, a handful of DVDs that, frankly, no one should own, which is probably why I owned them. We also had a table of stuffed animals to which we held no special attachment and some board games we never play. There were some old blankets and sheet sets, all the light fixtures we’ve replaced in our house, my Body By Jake Ab-Rocker (no, it doesn’t really work, I did it every day for a year and I never got even remotely close to a 6-pack), and some odds and ends. And lastly there was my table of crap… 3 old 17″ monitors, 3 printers, 2 scanners, a DVD player, a box of assorted PCI expansion cards (a couple of network cards, a couple of video cards, a sounds card, an SCSI controller, a parallel port card), and a roll of 50 feet of coaxial cable.
No one buys my computer crap.
In the end, we managed to sell some books, CDs, a couple of DVDs, the odd board game and stuffed animal, and the DVD Player, netting us a grand total of $177. Now its time to box the junk back up and wait for the next neighborhood garage sale.
Anyone who has played computer games or console games has run across the puzzle game. You have to flip this switch, move that box, trigger that trigger, jump the lava and open the door to the next level. Sometimes they are disguised as Tomb Raider games or even shooters like Half-Life. But from the producers of that latter example comes Portal. Everyone else has blogged about it, so I figured I would too.
Of all the games I’ve played in the last year, Portal, by far, is the shortest. I ran through the whole thing in a couple of hours, then I did it again… and again. Each time I was trying to find quicker or more interesting ways to pass a level. My favorite was to take out an automated sentry by portal manipulating a previous sentry, one hole above it and one below it, until its momentum was huge, then I moved the portal above to a wall and shot the poor guy like a rocket down a hallway at another sentry. All the while, the computer voice was promising me that once I’d completed the training there would be a party and cake!
GLaDOS promised me cake and forced me to euthanize my only friend, the Weighted Companion Cube. The cake is a lie and I miss the Cube! Why, GLaDOS? Why??
Seriously, though, if you have not yet played Portal on any of the platforms (PC, Xbox 360, PS3), you need to do so. Its certainly not the most fun you can have with your pants on, but its up there.
Last night, despite still being ill (more on that later), I went to a screening of the new movie Beowulf.
The story of Beowulf has been done so many times that I figure everyone knows it by now, so I’m not going to review that part. It is what it is, and its still pretty good.
This movie version is a computer animated tale. It uses the same motion capture system that brought us The Polar Express three years ago. I had the same problem with this film that I have had with every single computer animated movie in the past as they’ve approached realism: eyes and mouth. Two things that computer animation hasn’t gotten quite right yet, that eyes are not steady (people tend to flick their eyes around even if they don’t realize they are doing it) and that mouth movement actually affects the entire face (when a person yells, the jaw opens and it pulls the skin of the entire face, affecting the nose and eyes as well).
Now here comes the compliment… Beowulf is the first computer animated movie to make me forget that the eyes and mouth are wrong. Going in to the film, I did not know it was a digital 3D movie. The animation by itself would have been amazing, but rendered in 3D and popping off the screen it was breathtakingly phenomenal. Astounding.
Because of this, I highly recommend going to see this movie at the theater. The big screen and the digital 3D absolutely makes this film be exactly what Beowulf should be.
This makes me laugh.
Honestly, who doesn’t believe that could actually happen? Over the years (and because I’m a programmer of web pages myself) I have gotten pretty good at spotting fake links and stopping myself from getting taken to sites I don’t want to go to, but I see it happen to other folks all the time.
Oh well… I hope she doesn’t go to jail if it really wasn’t her fault. Definitely though, cases like these need to spend a little more time investigating the computer. They have computer forensics for a reason.