Programs from High School

I’ve taken some time over the past two days to dig through some of my old flash drives for old programs I wrote in high school. I found most of my flash drives, and while a few had been re-purposed over the years, I ended up finding a lot of content I created over the course of my pre-college schooling.

I didn’t find everything. When I started taking electives in high school, I first enrolled in a web design class. This was basic Photoshop, HTML, and Dreamweaver development. I can’t really find any of this stuff anymore. I also took a CAD class where I used AutoCad, Inventor, and Revit. These files look to be gone as well. More notably, I took a series of programming-heavy classes: Introduction to Programming (C++), Advanced Programming (C++), AP Computer Science (Java), Advanced Programming (Java), and Introduction to Video Game Design (Games Factory and DarkBasic).

Even when I took these classes a little over five years ago, the curriculum was outdated. DarkBasic was never really a mainstream programming language, and Games Factory was more event mapping than it ever was programming. We learned C++ using a 1996 version of Visual Studio and only learned the concepts of object oriented design later in the advanced class. The Java curriculum was brand new to the school when I took it, but still felt outdated.

That said, I learned a hell of a lot here that would lay a foundation for my future education and career path.

I took the time to copy these files from my flash drives and push them to a GitHub group I created for people who took these same classes as I did. The hope here is that the people I had class with will ultimately share and submit their creations, and we can browse these early samples of our programming. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any of my Java programs yet, but I might be able to come up with more places to look.

Just digging through my source code, I’ve already found a lot of weird errors and places where dozens of lines of code could be replaced with one or two.

It’s interesting to look back on these programs, and maybe they’ll give you a laugh if you care to check them out. I know they gave me one.

 

Films to Look Forward Too

Just a follow-up to the last article with some new films. It’s been pretty exciting as some of the ones on the last list started rolling out, and hopefully most of these will make it as well. As always, I don’t knows if any of these will be any good, but they’ve captured my attention to the point where I had to make a note of them.

Let me know if I missed any.

Aaron Swartz – The Internet’s Own Boy
Documentary on internet pioneer and activist Aaron Swartz. Anticipated early 2014.

The Archive Documentary
Can’t find a lot of into on this one, but there’s a “part 1” of it about the Internet Archive (which you can find hosted there for download). Release unknown.

Computer Chess
Interesting fictional film shot on black and white video about 80’s geeks programming chess computers. The technology behind the filming almost interests me more than the plot. Currently screening.

Downloaded
Documentary about digital media and the file-sharing generation. Currently screening.

From Bedrooms to Billions
Documentary on the video game pioneers located in the UK. Anticipated late 2013.

The Gamer Age (previously Beyond the Game)
Documentary exploring gamer culture from many different angles. Currently screening.

Hackers in Uganda – A Documentary
Documentary about hackers contributing technical education and equipment in Uganda. Currently filming, anticipated early 2014.

High Tech, Low Life
Documentary following two Chinese citizen journalists as they travel the country. Anticipated 2013.

Inside the Dragon’s Lair
Documentary focusing on the legacy and history of the groundbreaking LaserDisc-based ’80s arcade game. Currently filming.

The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time
Documentary about classic arcade game collecting, but also focuses on arcade culture. Recently released.

UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES: The True Story of Dr. Demento
Documentary about the legendary DJ, Dr. Demento. Anticipated 2014.

The Video Craze
Documentary focused on ’80s arcade culture. Anticipated late 2013.

Video Games – The Movie
Documentary about the video game industry and culture resulting from it. Anticipated late 2013.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Documentary about WikiLeaks and US government security breaches. Already has a large number of negative reviews. Anticipated 2013.

 

Films to Look Forward To

I often have a hard time finding movies to watch these days. I’m a big fan of documentaries, but even my long list of niche interests doesn’t always help me find something to watch that I have a genuine interest in. Fortunately, we live in a fantastic age when viewed from a media-centric perspective. If you look at the number of independently produced films from ten or even five years ago, you probably will not find as much as you could hope for. With low cost, high quality video equipment and crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo, even someone with a shoe-string budget can pump out a fantastic picture.

Having said that, I’ve been trying to throw some money at these crowd-funded film projects to reserve my copies for when the  films are completed. I’ve been closely following others which are produced without this aid. At the end of the day, I have a big list of films I’m anticipating and I thought I’d toss them all up in one page for those that may have similar tastes.

Now as I said, many of these films are crowd-funded. Crowd-funded projects do not always stick to schedule, and do not always get finished. It’s sad, but it’s the way of the world. With that little disclaimer out of the way, I try not to put my faith in anything that looks fly-by-night or generally poorly executed. Anything I have listed here appeared solid enough for me to trust them with a little bit of my money.

In all, I am waiting for 27 films to come out (mostly documentaries). Since this is a weird number, I’ve listed three more films which have already come out this year as a “bonus” to give the list a push to a more respectable count of 30.

Hopefully you can find something you’ll want to pursue.

The List

The 6502
Documentary about the 6502 chip and assembly programming. By Jason Scott. In Production, anticipated late 2015

8 Bit Generation
A documentary about retro computing and retro gaming, complete with interviews of some key players. All information about this film seems to have stopped last year, and nobody knows the current status. The domain stopped resolving a little bit ago, and many of the pre-orders are being automatically refunded as they are timing out. Possibly completed, originally anticipated late 2012.

Adjust Your Tracking
Documentary about modern VHS collecting and the VHS collecting community. In production, anticipated early 2012.

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Long awaited movie for the Angry Video Game Nerd, based off the web series of the same name. In production, anticipated Summer 2013.

Arcade
Documentary about arcades (the places, not the video games in them). By Jason Scott. In production, anticipated lat 2015.

Arcade: The Last Night at Chinatown Fair
Documents the last week of Chinatown Fair, NYC’s last arcade. In production, anticipated 2012

Capital C
Documentary about the crowd-funding phenomenon. In production, anticipated early 2013

Cassette
Documentary on the past, present, and future of the cassette tape from a musical perspective. In production, anticipated early 2013.

Code 2600
Documentary about the rise of the information age and the people who shape it. Currently Screening, no DVD release date yet.

Ctrl+Alt+Compete

Microsoft produced documentary about the start-up scene, focusing on five companies and their founders. In post production, no release date.

DEF CON Documentary
Documentary focusing on the DEF CON conference and the people who make it up. By Jason Scott. To be available as a free download or purchasable physical copy. In production, anticipated late 2012

Hackitat
A film about the politics behind hacking and freedom of the internet. In production, anticipated early 2014.

Here Come the VideoFreex
Documentary about the 1970’s video collective and their archive of tapes. In production, anticipated late 2013.

The King of Arcades
Documentary about Richie Knucklez and his arcade. In production, anticipated early 2013

Minecraft: The Story of Mojang
Documentary about the Mojang studio and the development of Minecraft. In post production, anticipated early 2013.

Persistence of Vision
Documentary about Richard Williams’ lost film, The Thief and the Cobbler. Currently screening, anticipated 2013.

Pure Pwnage – Teh Movie
Feature film based off of the Pure Pwnage web series. Set to pick up after the original series. In production, no current release date.

Reboot
Short cyberpunk film about a female hacker who will die if she cannot figure out the code on the iPod strapped to her hand.Currently screening, no DVD release date yet.

ReMade
Documentary about the maker movement and hackerspaces. In production, no release date.

Rewind This!
Documentary about the home video revolution and our relationship with media. In production, anticipated 2013.

Tape
Documentary about the medium of tape. By Jason Scott. In production, anticipated late 2015.

TPB AFK
Documentary about the founding and members of The Pirate Bay. In production, anticipated early 2013.

Two Hands Project
Documentary about hackerspaces. Being edited by Jason Scott. No release date.

Viva Amiga
Documentary about the Amiga computer. In Production, anticipated 2013.

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Documentary about the Anonymous movement. An unfinished version has leaked on the web. Currently screening, digital download and physical copy anticipated late 2012.

The Wireless Generation
A documentary about how people are taking jobs that are solely online and travel the world. In production, anticipated late 2013

Zero Day
A documentary about cyber crime as seen by the security team at Facebook. In production, anticipated Summer 2013.

Bonus

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters
A documentary about competitive Tetris playing. It’s actually much more interesting than it sounds. The whole documentary follows tracking down the best players, and culminates with one definitive competition to name the master. Currently available for digital download and DVD.

Indie Game: The Movie
A documentary about independent game development. I happened to really enjoy it, though some people thought the interviewees were pretentious. It still gives an interesting look into the world of independant game development. Currently available for digital download, physical copies are available for pre-order.

Video Game High School
Okay, it’s not a film but Freddie Wong co-produced this comedy/action web-series this summer. The story takes place in a video game dominated version of the present day, and revolves around a high school student who gets accepted to the prestigious Video Game High School after killing a top player in an FPS.  The episodes are available streaming online in high definition for free, and DVD/Blu-Ray is available for pre-order.

 

Anatomy of a Hacker Con Media Leak

Last week, videos from Black Hat USA 2012 hit the internet. Three days later, videos from Def Con 20 made their electronic debut. Only problem is, these videos were not meant to be distributed online.

Black Hat and Def Con conference videos for any given year usually retail about $400 USD for a set of DVDs. The DVD’s are relatively basic and consist of MOV files and a few PDFs to constitute a program. While Def Con videos are generally put up online for free a few months after the con, Black Hat videos don’t make such an appearance. Ever.

So here I was, perusing the internet for videos from these conferences on Youtube, when I noticed some new directories pop up on a familiar site: Good.net. I have few moral conflicts about sharing where to get this “pirated” content since the site in question will be shutting down tomorrow. For the unacquainted, Good.net is a strange hosting company which currently hosts darkoz’s “BlackHat/DefCon” mirror after it took up too much space on the last host (easynews for the detail-hounds). I’ve been archiving it, in parts, for almost a year. It gets updated every so often and is probably one of the single best sites for hacker media.

Anyway, these new directories for Def Con 20 and Black Hat 2012  originally came up unpopulated but slowly filled with content over the course of a few days. The Black Hat videos were mirrored and posted to Reddit where they spread and generated so much traffic the mirror went offline and Good.net removed the videos due to DMCA violation. This all took about 24 hours. After this, torrents started to pop up with the Black Hat videos where they remain primarily. More interestingly, a few days ago the videos actually went back up on Good.net as though nothing happened. The Def Con videos were pumped out in a similar manner. They popped up on Good.net and were torrented a day or two later.

Let’s talk about the videos themselves. Not the content and quality of the talks, but the actual files. This MOV format seems standard from checking out disc dumps of previous years (like so). No surprise there. However, the videos seem to have little care put into their production. From Def Con alone, I noticed only about half of the videos seemed to have correct metadata and two videos had aspect ratio issues. A handful of videos also suffered from video problems, meaning either the video camera failed, or the screen capture did. Further, the file names leave something to be desired. Looking up the presentation names to go with the files or playing guess-and-check is annoying, but tolerable for freed videos.

I’m not the only one who got in on the idea of downloading all the videos. If you do just a little bit of looking, you can see where people made download lists to feed into wget (here and here) and even a handy looking renaming script.

So where did the videos come from? It’s no stretch of the imagination to believe someone dumped their discs, and I’m sure this is the case. The archive at Good.net aggregates content from tons of active media archives and submissions (some stuff I put up actually got mirrored there). I’d wager that darkoz got the files as a donation. If he dumped the discs himself, why wouldn’t he include a program for the Def Con videos?

Though Good.net will be closing its doors, this hacker con mirror usually finds a new home.While I’ve done my best to mirror it, I cannot have foresight for any videos that might be added to it in the future, and hope the collection continues to grow. Where there are conference videos, there are people out there willing to share them, whether they be pricey or free.

Let’s see what slips through the cracks next year.

 

Analog Anyone?

I have a handful of reel-to-reel players. As an extension of this, I also happen to have around fifty or so reels to accompany the players. For the past few years, they haven’t been doing much besides serving as over-sized paper weights. Over the past couple months though, I have been recording things on to them. Music to be specific, all sorts of music.

I’ve been recording whole albums onto the reels of quarter inch magnetic tape. At 7.5 inches per second, the quality is pretty much indistinguishable from the MP3 player I record them from. At 45 minutes per side of tape, I can put at least one album per side (in most cases).

Why do all this? I like the process. It can be a bit of relaxation to string up a tape on a machine and hit the play button, watching the reels hit tension and hearing the music wind up. Also, it’s not the easiest thing to find pre-recorded music on reels. You can most likely find some jazz or easy listening albums on tape, but rock-oriented music is hard to get and can fetch a high price if you are lucky enough to locate it. As more collectors get at the harder-to-find tapes, recording yourself is pretty much the best way to go if you want your equipment used for anything other than show.

 

High Definition

Up until a week ago, I used a standard definition television set for just about everything. I’ve always been what you could call a “late adopter.” I rarely spring for the newest and best. My computers are crumbling, my mp3 player is scratched on every surface, and my is phone brick-like. Yet, all of these will last me well into the future. I figured I would take the dive into the world of high definition. It wasn’t a necessary transition, but one I wanted to explore as my taste in cinema expands.

My first testing of the water was a year and a half ago. I got a smaller HDTV at a flea market. It was an impulse buy at $30, but had a slew of problems that prevented me from wanting to use it every day. There were vertical lines of “seemingly” dead pixels that would eventually return to full form if you happened to be watching for a few hours. The antenna jack didn’t work. The audio was shaky. It wasn’t even as big as my clunky, second-hand CRT. In all, it turned out to be a fun little 20 inch tv that could be whipped out for some gaming if I felt like treating myself to something different.

After finally deciding I wanted my own HDTV, I embarked on the process of research. I feel like this has been lost on the general public. Go to any big box electronic retailer and linger near the more expensive devices. The majority of people will basically have the decision of what they want to buy made by someone working there. That isn’t for me. I like to pour myself into Amazon and Newegg reviews, sifting through pages for days in my downtime. I finally decided on a Panasonic Viera, the S2 series to be more precise. I played the waiting game, to see if the price would drop, but it seemed to hover steadily a few notches below the MSRP. When I finally decided to spring for it a month or so down the road, finding it proved to be the most difficult task. Now, what I learned about these televisions is that when they new models are close to rolling around, different stores approach this situation in different ways. I noticed about a week before going out to buy that many stores had them taken down from their online websites, but said stores may still have them available. Visiting these stores turned out to be a bust. They had them listed for sale, had a demo unit, but no stock. Clerks informed me they were on closeout, and would not be able to get new stock. Calling other stores in the chains turned up no televisions hiding out in other store rooms, so I turned to Best Buy. Now, the clerk there informed me that the televisions were still in stock and could be ordered for at least another month. This confused me a little bit, but started to make sense considering most stores would not want to be left with stock when the new models come around. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I snagged it, bagged it, and toted it home for a quick setup.

The first thing I did was go through all of the settings, and I mean all of them. It amazes me how much can be packed into the menus on a modern television. The second thing I did was plug in the Xbox 360 to play some Halo for an hour or two. When the menu popped up on screen, I was sold. It was exactly what I wanted from gaming that I lacked with a standard definition set. The next thing I did was pop in a DVD. That impressed me almost as much as the game did. It wasn’t high definition, but you could have easily fooled me. The picture popped, the detail level was high, and I found myself noticing stuff I never did before. It was an experience.

Now, at this time, I was using the Xbox 360 through component cables. I, according to Wikipedia, have the only model of 360 lacking an HDMI port. A bit of a bummer, but one I can live with. I didn’t bother buying any HDMI cables for my other devices locally. I checked around Amazon and found nicely rated ones for four dollars a pop, so I ordered three and they got to me in about a week. So upon getting them, I hooked up my DVD player and my DVD recorder and went to town setting all the picture options and adjustments. I have to say, I’m really impressed. If you did the math, you might notice I ordered an extra cable. Hopefully, this will facilitate a Blu-ray player at some point in the near future, but that is another story.

When it came to all of my other components, they hold up nicely. My original Xbox (sporting XMBC) looks very nice when using it with the component cables. The Wii also looks pretty nice via component, but is not much of a step up from the classic composite connection. My VCR looked surprisingly good. A lot of people go on about how the image quality of a VHS tape looks awful on a big screen, but I noticed no difference between that and your basic television. It might have even looked better, but that could be stretching things a bit.

Considering my love for IPTV, I might be seeing some more bandwidth and hard drive space being gobbled up now as I could start jumping on the high definition video train. I’ve streamed a few high definition XviD’s through the Xbox 360, but it seems to have problems with some of the more popular formats. So having said that, if anyone can recommend a standalone player or something that does network streaming and can play basically any HD format, drop me a line. I’d love to get more high quality playback, and am somewhat limited with my current setup. And yes, I know the PS3 can stream, and I know there are some Blu-Ray players that can handle a wide spread of formats, but they respectively cost a bit too much and don’t seem to review well.

When I got the television, I had a bit of a fear. I love the warmth of analog. There is something that feels cold about digital that I just cannot place. Even through this, I get a great feeling from this television, and feel that nothing has been lost.

If anything, I don’t feel like I’m being pushed from my ways. Instead,  I feel like I’m being supported in them through some odd, unexpected twist.

 

Flea Market Find – Lineman’s Handset

I recently purchased a blue lineman’s handset for $12. It is quite an interesting piece of hardware. At first glance, it looks like a standard handset, but upon further review there are characteristics that set it apart. On the back of the handset is a rotary dial used for dialing numbers, a hook to connect it to the belt, and two test leads with alligator clips. The alligator clips have a piercing spike in them to connect to insulated wires. No stripping is necessary. On the side of the phone, there is a switch that can go between TALK and MON. MON in this case stands for monitor. There is also a nice “Bell System Property – Not for sale” engraving.

I brought the handset home and plugged it in. I had the switch on TALK and instantly heard a dial tone. I decided to call my cellphone, and entered the number (which can take a bit of time using a rotary dial). I got connected and heard my voice mail message. I decided to try to use my old Radioshack tone dialer next. I punched in the number on my tone dialer, and held it up to the handset. I hit the dial button on the dialer, and heard the tones through the earpiece of the handset, but the tones did not register on the handset itself, and the number wasn’t called.

Next, I flipped the switch on the handset to MON mode. At first, I didn’t hear anything on the line. I hooked up a standard phone nearby, and picked up the handset of that phone. My lineman’s handset instantly had a dial tone, and was monitoring the line. The MON setting also turns off the microphone in the handset, so there are no slip-ups when monitoring.

Other than the cool factor, there are a few things I can do with it. I could use it as a house phone, though it does not have its own ringer. I could also do some wire tapping, but that is illegal. It is not a very practical piece of hardware, but it certainly does hold my attention. Maybe the web will end up lending me some ideas of what I could do with it.

 

Flea Market Find – 8-Track Tape Player

So for $5, I was able to nab a boxed (though used) Stereo 8 player. Not a common purchase I know, but it is bound to get at least some use as a stereo component.

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The Box, weighing about 7 pounds while full

Eight-tracks, for those who don’t know, were once the reigning format for portable music, later being replaced by the cassette tape. Like the four-track tape, the eight-track would have multiple programs per tape that could be switched from one to the other using a button on the player. Though eight-track tapes, like the name implies, can hold more music than a four-track tape, they do so in the same amount of space. Ultimately, the sound quality of an eight-track tape is less than the quality of a four-track tape.

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Queen’s News of the World

Upon adding the unit to my stereo, I can say that the sound quality is indeed low. If anything, eight-track tapes can be kept around for their novelty, or the off chance I find something on one that I cannot get anywhere else.

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Front of the 8-track tape player

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Angled view of the player with 8-track

 

Binaural Beats

So recently with doing some audio experimenting, I was introduced to the concept of binaural beats. The idea is that a listener uses a pair of stereo headphones to listen to two differen frequencies, one in each ear. The result is the perception of a beating tone as if it was produced by the brain itself. This causes brainwave synchronization with desired frequencies from outside stimuli.

So why would anyone want to do this? The practical side of this is use with learning, health, and meditation. In studies, binaural beats have been seen to increase information retention as well as the amount assimilated. Binaural beats have also been see to act as pain relief, and even help with addiction rehabilitation. Some also believe when targeting specific types of brainwaves, meditation can be enhanced as well as attribute to out of body experience and lucid dreaming.

On the other end of the spectrum, binaural beats are used as entertainment. How effectively they are used in this sense is debatable. The thought is that by manipulating brainwaves, you can temporarily change perception.  So basically, binaural beats give people the ability to create audio that mimics the effects of chemical substances that alter normal body function. Enter I-Doser, probably the leading name in brainwave entertainment. Their shtick is offering up “doses” in the form of audio files that give the same effects as legal/illegal substances. However, there is much question about if they actually work or not. Many claim they do though it takes a while (which may coincide with how binaural beats are used with meditation) however a large majority of people who have had experience with I-Doser claim that either nothing happens or many people suffer the placebo effect. If you want to see for yourself, you can obtain some demos at the I-Doser website.

So of course after hearing of the concept of binaural beats, I wanted to hear binaural beats. I found an interesting program by the name of Gnaural which acts a a binaural beat generator. Its open-source and thus free, so you can try it at your liesure. Gnaural seems to be a fully functional generator with the ability to control pink noise, frequencies, etc. I tried it out and I can say it was an interesting experience, theres definately a weird feeling achieved through the sound.

So in closing, give it a whirl if you’re interested. Who knows, you may be one step closer to controlling your own dreams.

 

Flea Market Find – Xbox Sign

So today, I went to a flea market in New Castle, Delaware and snagged this sign for $10.

xbox

It plugs in, and lights up. Not too sure what I’m gonna do with it, but its pretty cool, and I’d expect hard to find as well.