PlayStation More Feb 20

I’ve not been too excited about the Sony PlayStation recently. The vast majority of big game releases are multi-platform, and most of them end up having better DLC support on Xbox 360, as well as the online aspect being a lot better on Xbox Live. In fact, since moving house six months ago, I haven’t even unpacked my PS3 and set it up. I did trade-in my PS Vita though and pick up a second Xbox 360 for the office (for lunchtime guitar learnings on Rocksmith, and not lunchtime online sessions of Halo 4, of course).

I am still excited about the PlayStation announcement shortly though. It seems pretty nailed-on that this is the PS4 unveil (look for Sony’s stock on the floor of Wall Street tomorrow if they don’t unveil a next-gen console), but obviously the specs, the look of it, the tech and features, and most importantly the launch games are all up in the air. I don’t imagine we’ll get a firm release date or price today, although it’d be nice if they were looking at a worldwide launch rather than EU being months behind like with the PS3, and if the UK price wasn’t just the US price with $ changed to £.

The games will most likely be a mix of franchise favourites, I expect an Uncharted, Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy, and maybe even an exclusive Metal Gear Solid perhaps. Unlikely that any of these will show off too much or even give final titles (Uncharted 4? Gran Turismo 6? Final Fantasy 54?). But it’ll get the Sony exclusive buzz back which they so desperately need.

The specs and look of the console will probably turn out to be fairly uninteresting. Specs wise I think the next-gen will be a lot more even, with both Sony and Microsoft looking to use more off-the-shelf components so that the launch price is cheaper and more affordable, and they can start to profit on each unit much quicker (traditionally very difficult at the beginning of a new console cycle). The looks won’t be as outrageous as some suggest I don’t think - people won’t be making any console the centerpiece of their living rooms, and I think these companies know that now. Instead look for something that fits in nicely amongst other AV components, but with a traditional Sony fit and finish that suggests quality.

The most interesting aspect by far is features. The PS3 lagged behind the Xbox 360 in terms of the online service and offerings by a mile, only recently starting to make inroads with PlayStation Plus. An extension of this, with the Gaikai acquisition finally being put to use as a PlayStation branded game streaming service so that you can play PS3 games on the PS4, would be pretty compelling. Still will be interesting to see how they’ll let people turn their physical PS3 game collections into games they can stream on PS4, but it’d lay down the gauntlet for MS and the next-gen Xbox.

If they could also get the hang of reasonably and competitively priced day one download releases for their flagship games, they might even have a true 21st century offering on their hands… and about time too. One thing is for sure though, it’s make or break time for PlayStation with this next-generation now, and I fully expect that Sony will have either entirely missed the point with PS4, or will have absolutely nailed it. We’ll hopefully find out tonight.

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Gaming an A Feb 17

Some more real life game theory application as a group of college students exposed a loophole in the scoring for their class. When told that the top score on their exam would get an A, with everyone else graded on a curve adjusted behind the highest score, they decided unanimously to boycott the exam. By all getting the joint top score of 0, they were each awarded an A!

More details over on the NYT Economix blog, but it just shows how knowing a bit of basic game theory and being logical can pay off!

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Game theory in the wild Feb 6

This is an interesting blog post, taking a look at an application of game theory in relation to a problem generally referred to as a “prisoner’s dilemma”, but this time it’s playing out on a television game show.

Pretty clever stuff, but one thought I had is that while the strategy is pretty cunning, it does rely somewhat on not encountering a destructive opposition force. Specifically, what if you were playing someone who didn’t trust you, and had the mentality “if I can’t have it, no one can”? They would choose to steal the money, knowing that if you followed through on your ultimatum, neither of you would win, and that if you were bluffing, they would win the lot.

The theory here is ballsy, and sides with the odds (and basic, compassionate, trusting human nature) - but isn’t without its own risks, given that in a case like this, you don’t really know the person you are playing against.

A more recent and in depth look at the logic behind the “prisoner’s dilemma” is here, and goes into a nice level of detail (along with links to some web based simulators) on the best strategies when playing the game. It too includes a link to a clip from the same game show, albeit a different clip, with a rather surprising result.

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Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech Feb 3

Interesting to look back almost 20 years and see the late Bill Hicks brilliant response to a complaint from a priest about a screening of one of his live shows on Channel 4:

I myself am a strong supporter of the ‘Right of freedom of speech’, as I’m sure most people would be if they truly understood the concept. 'Freedom of speech’ means you support the right of people to say exactly those ideas which you do not agree with. (Otherwise, you don’t believe in 'freedom of speech’, but rather only those ideas which you believe to be acceptably stated.) Seeing as how there are so many different beliefs in the world, and as it would be virtually impossible for all of us to agree on any onebelief, you may begin to realize just how important an idea like 'freedom of speech’ really is. The idea basically states 'while I don’t agree or care for what you are saying, I do support your right to say it, for herein lies true freedom’.

You really have to wonder what he’d make of the day and age we live in right now though, where freedom of speech seems to have eroded away, and where if something isn’t censored or sanitized, it’s quite likely that it’ll be lambasted as not being politically correct. I think we can stand to learn a little from an excerpt such as this - just because we don’t agree with something, doesn’t change the fact that someone has the right to support it, so long as it’s not hurting anyone.

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Believing in Tim Tebow Jan 15

http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7455943/believing-tim-tebow

He might not have gotten it done in yesterdays playoff game, but it appears that Tim Tebow really is one of the good guys.

This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammates before a game, much less visit with the sick and dying.

Isn’t that a huge distraction?

 "Just the opposite,“ Tebow says. "It’s by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it’s to invest in people’s lives, to make a difference.”

Pretty refreshing to see someone famous like this donate their time instead of just their money. I’m not a Broncos fan, but I’m now a Tebow fan.

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The vim learning curve is a myth Nov 24

http://robots.thoughtbot.com/post/13164810557/the-vim-learning-curve-is-a-myth

No one ever says “I’d love to learn Street Fighter 2, but there are just so many combos!” People don’t say this because learning a game is enjoyable. You start off with just the basic kicks and punches, and those get you by. Later, you learn more advanced moves, maybe even by accident.

Learning vim is like this.

Great article by the guys at thoughtbot about learning vim.

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Van Halen and contractual integrity Aug 5

http://jimcofer.com/personal/?p=621

Fantastically interesting article about the rather strange contractual stipulation that the rock group Van Halen put in the contracts for their gigs back during their big tours in the 80s. With exceedingly complex stage setups, the group wanted to be sure that their extensive contracts were being followed to the letter, so that the shows would go ahead without any technical glitches. What better way to do that than to insert an asinine, arbitrary clause into the middle of an otherwise dull contract, and see if it was carried out or not? The following, taken from the article by Jim Cofer, outlines how it worked:

In case you weren’t around during the 80s, the rock supergroup Van Halen had a clause in their concert contracts that stipulated that the band would “be provided with one large bowl of M&M candies, with all brown candies removed”.

Here’s the thing, though: the band put the “no brown M&Ms” clause in their contracts for a very good reason.

The band needed a way to know that their contract had been read fully. And this is where the “no brown M&Ms” came in. The band put a clause smack dab in the middle of the technical jargon of other riders: “Article 126: There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation”. That way, the band could simply enter the arena and look for a bowl of M&Ms in the backstage area. No brown M&Ms? Someone read the contract fully, so there were probably no major mistakes with the equipment. A bowl of M&Ms with the brown candies? No bowl of M&Ms at all? Stop everyone and check every single thing, because someone didn’t bother to read the contract.

What a brilliant idea, putting in something that doesn’t particularly involve a lot of work or added cost, but that does verify the attention to detail of the people they were working with, to ensure that their end product (the stage shows) were as awesome as they wanted them to be. Great thinking.

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Designing GitHub for Mac Jun 28

http://warpspire.com/posts/designing-github-mac/

A really interesting look at how the design for GitHub for Mac came together.

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Being a racing driver means you are racing with other people, and if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver. Jun 25

Ayrton Senna

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In many ways, the 11.6-inch Air is technically more impressive than the iPad. Having taken apart hundreds of Macs, I know how Apple designs the insides of its machines, and as good as they are at it, this notebook still seems impossible. Jun 18

Forkbombr — Size Doesn’t Matter: My Review of the 11.6-inch MacBook Air

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