BitBreeds stand with the humans; we won’t let it slide.

Aliens

With the discovery of a possibly habitable planet around one of our closest stellar neighbours, it has become clear that sooner rather then later, there will be aliens and UFOs around.

A new hope

This summer, UFO Hunter, a simulator for waging war against UFOs was revived and released to the public.

Our consultant getting accustomed to the simulator
Our consultant getting accustomed to the simulator.

Since the future of humanity rests on the shoulders of this simulator and spacex, we have called back one of our most important assets (a veteran from future wars carefully regrown from DNA retrieved in the Artifact) to perform a thorough test of the simulator.

The force awakens

In the spirit of Shi Qiang, Lou Ji and Thomas Wade, we at BitBreeds have declared for the humans. Like our spacex and UFO Hunter friends, we have set our sight on the stars, and we are going for the goal.

What will you do?

Webtorrent; we get signal.

Lately I have been looking into WebRTC which is an open standard for real time communication between browsers. It allows communication styles in the browser which previously were not possible.

WebTorrent uses WebRTC for a protocol similar to bittorrent. Instead of having to download a program or install a browser plugin, you can download a webtorrent (which currently must be seeded as a webtorrent, by forexample instant.io) directly in the browser.

To test Webtorrent, I made a small javascript project. WT-widgets, is a collection of graphics for starting webtorrent downloads and showing download progress. Below is an example where you can download Artifact for Mac OS X using webtorrent.

No seeds

If there are no seeds, you can seed the file yourself by visiting the differently styled button below. This button uses a feature of WT-widgets that does a fallback to XMLHttpRequest after 5 seconds. When it is finished downloading the file, it will start seeding. Then the first button should work, since there is a seed.


The file will be downloaded in your browser, and you can then copy it to your filesystem by clicking the link that appears when the file finished downloading. This does not follow the usual download flow, so one of the aims of WT-widgets is to ensure that it clear to the user that a download is happening. I am not sure how well my widgets succeed in that regard, as my current widgets might not be the best at communicating that there is a download happening.

Suggestions or pull requests with fixes/additions are always welcome. I hope to expand WT-widgets with some widgets that show progress horizontally, as well as some widgets that more clearly show when it is in the different states of a download.

What Webtorrent sorely needs

While seeding in the browser works great, I do not want to have a browser fired up at all times to ensure there are seeds for my content. The best option I found for seeding webtorrents was webtorrent-hybrid, but when I tried it, I sadly could not get it to build.

Once Webtorrent has a solid solution for server side bootstrap seeding, I think it is will become a great alternative for distributing some kinds of content.

Take off every ‘ZIG’!!

Artifact 1.0.2.1 – Fixing OS X level 10+ crash

The obligatory level 10 death

For some reason Artifact-1.0.2 would crash on level 10+ on some OS X installations. This seems to stem from some issue with my LWJGL version, the bundled JVM and those OS X installations.

Artifact-1.0.2.1 includes a later JVM which seems to work in my tests. If you experience any issues with it please report using the address here.

Download Artifact-1.0.2.1 for Mac OS X

Sci-fi book review

Last year i got a kindle for Christmas. This is a review of all the science-fiction books it contains at this moment, with the exception of Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s Forever War (This post is already way too long and these are pretty well known books). For each book/series I’ll try and give a very short description followed by my thoughts.

The TLDR; these books provide a balanced diet ;-).

If you only have time to read one book, read Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

Not just the TLDR

These are the books I have read in no particular order:

  • Jason M. Hough – The dire earth cycle

    Someone (not humans) has built a space elevator in Darwin Australia. After some years a disease either kills or turns everyone into zombies except in a safe zone around the space elevator.

    The dire earth cycle is a quick read, and an entertaining one. It was way better then I expected. Sometimes it goes into these very long and meaningless action sequences; you can safely skim those.

  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice

    The story follows an AI fragment from the Radch starship Justice of Toren‍. This fragment is all that is left after the starship was destroyed. While Justice of Toren plans revenge on its destructor, we get flashbacks to its previous life as a ship AI in service of the Radch.

    I do not have enough positive things to say about this book. The main character is extremely well written. The pace is good. I’m really looking forward to the third book in the series. If you are going to read it, do not read about the book first, it might spoil some parts which it is worth not to have spoiled.

  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword

    Not as good as the first book, but still great.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson – Mars trilogy

    We follow the first 100 colonists of Mars as they colonize and attempt to terraform mars.

    Of all the books on this list, this series really stands out as different. Most of the time the book follows the everyday work of the 100 colonists as they work, scheme, and daydream. There is no good and evil here. While the political views of the author shines through it never feels like preaching. On the negative side the book has travel descriptions that makes the travel descriptions in Lord of the Rings feel like short strolls. Still the series is one of my favourites.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson – Icehenge

    Someone made a huge monument on pluto, why?

    Set in the same universe as the Mars Trilogy. It follows some of the same style, but the pace was a bit faster. The story has a lot of references to the Mars Trilogy, so it might be better to read that first.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson – The Memory of Whiteness

    We follow the master of ‘Holywelkins Orchestra’ on its tour from the outer to the inner solar system. On the way it becomes clear that the orchestra is immensely powerful. And also some cult controls Mercury and therefore the power distribution to the rest of the solar system.

    That probably made no sense. The book seemed to make sense (and was enjoyable) for the first half, then it stopped making sense. Too weird for me.

  • Vernor Vinge – Marooned in Realtime

    In the future humanity figures out a way to suspend time in bobbles (allowing time travel to the future). The main character is unwillingly suspended and returns to a worlds where human civilisation is gone and only a few humans (bobblers from varying degrees of civilisation) are left, including his suspender.

    Vernor Vinge does a very good job with his concepts. He introduces the rules of his universe and then follows them. This book is short and to the point. No infinite traveling on Mars; no zombies. A very enjoyable read.

  • Vernor Vinge – The Peace War

    In this book we follow the world just after the bobbles (see previous book) were invented, and are discovered to be finite stasis fields.

    I enjoyed Marooned in realtime more, but it is well worth reading.

  • Vernor Vinge – A fire upon the deep

    Our galaxy is divided in zones that allow different sorts of intelligence and technology to arise and be used. We follow humanity which has traveled to the Beyond where AI and FTL travel is possible ( Earth is located in the Slow zone where these things are not possible). The outer zone is called the Transcend, where the beings are basically gods. Trying to enter the Transcend from the Beyond, some humans fall into a trap and release a being which threatens all life in the beyond. A ship escapes the trap with information on how to counter the being, but strands on a world with wolf like creatures with group-minds.

    Very interesting concepts and quite well executed. A lot of the book is written from the perspective of packs which are group-minds of several individual wolfs. For me these chapters were initially hard to follow, since I do not think it was explicitly explained that these were group-minds.

  • Vernor Vinge – A Deepness in the Sky

    This book takes place in the Slow zone (no FTL). Two human space traveling civilisations discover a world which orbits around a star that is only active for one year every 250 years. On this world lives a species of spiders which will soon reach space. The two human civilisations clash over the right to trade with/enslave this species. The clash leaves them both crippled though, and they need to cooperate while waiting for the star to wake and get new resources from the Spiders.

    I liked this book more then A fire upon the deep. There are some parts about layered complex software growing over time (they have very old software on their spaceships, like if glibc would be used several thousand years in the future), which to an enterprise programmer almost feels way too believable.

  • Christian Cantrell – Containment

    Arik must figure out artificial photosynthesis, or his not yet born child will cause the colony he belongs to on Venus to eventually run out of of oxygen.

    I was really surprised by this book. It has some great plot twists, and was very difficult to put down. I am currently in the process of reading the sequel Equinox. These books both has very brief encounters with zombies. Thankfully very short, but they would be better without.

  • Mike Resnick – Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge

    Alien archeologists come to earth to excavate after humanity is long gone.

    Short and very enjoyable read. Just read it.

  • Jon Scalzi – Old Man’s War universe

    Humanity has reached space and has settled several planets, but it is in conflict with several alien species over territory. This conflict is handled by the CDF (Colonial Defense Forces) who is in constant need of new soldier on a very deadly battlefield. These soldiers are recruited from an overpopulated Earth where the CDF controls the only access point to space. To keep the stream of soldiers the CDF largely keeps Earth in the dark of their technology and stategies. The series explores the conflicts with the alien and the political struggles resulting from this situation from the perspective of the soldiers and political figures caught in it.

    The overall quality of this series is great. If you liked Starship Troopers you will most likely like this. I do not think any single book of the series is as good as Ancillary Justice, but I read every new book in the series.

  • Conclusion

    If you only have time to read one book, you can not go wrong with Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

    Polar bears, not zombies!

    Scape – a very ninja scripting language


    I made a small scripting language that runs in the browser. It is very ninja. To see the ninja, first open Javascript console and write:

    function recur() {recur()};recur();
    

    Hopefully it blew the stack. Then type this into the Scape REPL:

    def recur() recur(); recur();
    

    When you are convinced it will infinitely loop without blowing the stack, hit ctrl-c to stop further processing.

    Rincewinds rave, that is black magic! Also called tail call elimination. Scape code is not evaluated by snarfing functions from Javascript (JS functions do not have tail call elimination before ECMAScript 6), but instead is compiled to its own set of instructions, which are then run on a stack machine (running in the Javascript VM). During parsing Scape functions are checked for whether they can use tail call elimination. If they can, they get different instructions that reuse the existing stack frame.

    More magic

    Scape has forward mode automatic differentiation as a language feature. Automatic differentiation allows you to compute the derivative of a function, without having to define the derivative explicitly.

    Without automatic differentiation, this would be the way to compute the partial derivative of the function f(x,y) =  x^{2}y^{2} for x and y:

    def fun(x,y) * (* x x) (* y y);
    def diff_fun(x,y) [* (* 2 x) (* y y),* (* 2 y) (* x x)];
    diff_fun(4,5);
    [200, 160]
    

    With automatic differentiation in Scape, this is how it is done:

    def fun(x,y) * (* x x) (* y y);
    diff(fun(4,5));
    [200, 160]
    

    This is very useful for a number of numerical methods involving derivatives. The feature is currently experimental, it might interact with non-double types in funky ways.

    Wai?

    Mostly just for fun. I also started toying with the idea to make a safe scripting language for use in networked games. A language and runtime that would allow the player to define custom logic during gameplay without being able to ruin the experience for other players.

    A dream would be a personalized Starcraft where it is you and your custom control scripts versus the other player and his scripts.

    I hope to create a simple real time multiplayer game to show how I imagine it working. For now, playing with the Scape REPL is the only way to try the language.

    Sayōnara

    Pear pram construction

    My 3 year old daughter’s current favourite book is Jakob Martin Strid’s Den utrolige historien om den kjempestore pæra. In the story a giant pear is made hollow, and eventually turned into a boat. I decided to try and make a similar upright floating pear-boat out of a normal pear. One that my my daughter could play with once finished. Off I went to buy a pear and tools, the pear I ended up with have these specs:

    • Weighs around 238 g.
    • Displaces approximately 225 ml of water. This means it is slightly more dense then water since the weight of that water would be approximately 225 g.
    • Judging from the pears available in the shop, the one I chose was slightly more symmetric then most pears.

    In addition to the pear, the tools I used are shown in the image below:

    pear-tools
    Pear, knife, melon baller (the MVT in pear pram construction), coins, thread.

    The first step in pear pram creation, is to cut the windows using a knife. Once that is done carve out the inside using the melon baller. I recommend making the windows close to the top of the pear. If you make them too low they will result in water intake when launched. It is better to create the windows high initially and expand them downwards once you have a feeling for how the pear floats.

    After carving out the core and flesh.
    After carving out the core and flesh.

    Another great reason for making the windows high up is lowering the center of mass. Pears have not yet been cultivated to float upright, and the center of mass is way too high for that. Having a too high center of mass on a ship is catastrophic. In its unmodified form a hollow pear will most likely perform worse then the Vasa on its maiden voyage.

    To lower the center of mass even more, it is important to carve out as much as possible of the “roof”. Since the stalk extends into the pear this is difficult. It is easy to ruin the pear if you use too much force; be careful.

    Even with the windows high up and a very light roof, the center of mass is still too high. Initially I added coins on the inside as ballast, this worked if I put the pear very carefully into the water, but it was still prone to capsizing.

    Pear in bowl
    Coins on a thread prevents capsizing. The pear is finally approved for transport of Lego men

    To remedy this I moved the center of mass even lower by adding ballast on a thread below the pear. This was done by creating a knot on the thread and using a needle to get it through the bottom of the pear. Then the coins were added as shown in the picture. To ensure that water would not leak along the thread into the pear, I greased the entry points.

    In its finished form the pear is quite stable, it could hold a surprising amount of Lego men without capsizing. I never got around  to test adding a sail, but I think it might be stable enough to support a small sail.

    Sadly rot is an inevitability facing all pear prams. If you have a great idea for prolonging pear pram life, please leave a comment.

     

     

    Artifact-1.0.2

    Today I released Artifact-1.0.2 after finally getting my ass around to create a close to fully automated build script for Mac OS X (a topic for another blog post). The full changelog is listed below, but I instead recommend you go get it and try it!

    mech-sec-new
    New second orb graphics

    Changelog:

    1. Added full screen and resolution management in game.
    2. Removed splash screen.
    3. Adjusted difficulties and added new names (Apprentice, Journeyman, Master).
    4. Added additional fire button, allowing better control using a touch-pad.
    5. Redesigned second orb with additional graphics and new behavior.

    More in detail:

    1. The splash screen in Artifact was unnecessary and the only issue keeping me from removing it was having in-game window and resolution management.
    2. See above.
    3. The Normal and Hard game difficulties were hardly different in version 1.0.0, while the Not sane difficulty was extremely hard. Now the Apprentice difficulty is much easier then the old Normal, Journeyman is similar to the old Normal, while Master is slightly easier then the old Not Sane difficulty. The change was mainly done to make the initial difficulty easier for new players.
    4. On a touch-pad moving the mouse and clicking might interfere with each other, so I added an alternate fire welder button for those who might prefer that.
    5. The Second orb was very hard to predict and its mechanic felt wrong. The new version is cooler , and most of the time way easier to predict. It also has a slight comeback factor, which is nice in this cutthroat game.

    Get 1000 the game

    My dad is a great teacher, not too long ago he taught me this game he was having his class play. To play you need a dice, pencils, and paper.

    Pencil, paper and dice
    All the equipment you need.

    The game is quite simple, but complicated to master. It works like this:

    • Everyone draws a 3 by 3 table.
    • The dice is rolled and everyone places the rolled value in one of the empty positions in the table. Everyone has to place the value before the next roll.
    • This is repeated until every position in the table is filled.
    • To find your result you add your rows.
    A game
    A finished game with score 991.
    • The above table would result in the final sum of 123 + 634 + 234 = 991.
    • The winner is the player with the result closest to 1000. This means that 1001 beats 990 and 951 beats 1051 and so on. It is the distance from 1000 that matters.

    To play decent in this game, some knowledge of addition is required. To play well you also need to figure out when it is best to play risky, and when to play safe. This is much harder than it may look.

    I really hope that after reading this you will try to play this with your friends. If you have no friends willing to play nearby, you can try my asynchronous version. There you can start a game, and then send your friends a link to join that game. Then they can play whenever they want within a week.

    Go play Get 1000

    If you want to rejoin a game, your 10 last game links will be stored in your local browser storage for a week. These will be listed in your game list. If you saved a join link, you can also use that to join a game.

    Prepare your Welding Blaster; play Artifact

    I made a computer game together with Nils Eriksen Meling and Sven Meling; It is named Artifactgo try it! It plays similarly to Barrack, a favourite game from my youth. In addition to the action and strategy found in Barrack, Artifact also adds an aspect of resource management.

    blaster
    Prepare your Welding Blaster, the Artifact is a cruel mistress

    In Artifact, each of 40 levels consists of a screen filled with a variety of different orbs. These orbs must be isolated by you. Once 75% of the playing field has been isolated, the level ends. You are rewarded for playing fast, and for ending the level with a high % of the screen isolated.

    crystalsOn
    Electricity is key

    To accomplish your task you control a dual-direction Welding Blaster that can be transformed to fire vertically or horizontally. When fired, a welding beam will slowly traverse the screen in 2 directions. Once both ends reach a wall, the playing field will be cut, isolating balls on each side of the beam. However, care must be taken not to hit the orbs, as they will create a feedback surge, damaging the Welding Blaster.

    future_whole
    I hate orbs

    Artifact is free and will stay so, but developing and maintaining it is not free. If you enjoy Artifact, I hope you will consider a donation. However, most of all, I hope you enjoy playing it.
    If you have problems with installation on the supported platforms, please send a mail to: .

    Download Artifact