Friday, December 12, 2014

Kaley 1.0.3 Patch Notes

The 1.0.3 patch for Kaley is released!

New Features:

  • Consuming solid food (in beta)
  • Grabbing and holding is much improved
  • Giggling is more common
Known Issues:

  • When consuming solid food, a substantial amount of food is likely to end up on face, bib, or hands. 
  • Sleeping is now more irregular; more likely to wake up early
  • Grunting has increased significantly 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sometimes a Story Just Has to Get Out of You

I'm quite fond of the game FTL (note the hours played). I frequent the game's subreddit and participate there a fair bit with funny screenshots and comments. A few months ago, I posted another screenshot that had made me chuckle:

A commenter, unaware of what he was about to unleash, commented "Some backstory perhaps?" When I read that comment, a story suddenly and involuntarily flew into my head. I had to get the story out of my head and onto (digital) paper. (I guess this is what artists feel, that they "do art" because they can't not do it.)

The resulting comment was gilded, best-of'd, and upvoted to be one of my most upvoted comments. I figured I'd replicate it here.

It had been a long journey for the crew of the Kestrel, Captain Ariel thought to herself. I never would have thought it would have been this bad when I signed up. She and her crew had gladly accepted the assignment of couriering some data to the Federation Base. Lieutenant Mills, or "Bomfy", as he liked to be called, even pushed Ariel to volunteer the Kestrel. "She can take anything the Rebels can throw at her," the engineer boasted. The two old friends, along with tactical officer Lieutenant Mikhail Chernyshev, accepted the small data drive and the mission it entailed.

They knew they'd have to travel through at least eight sectors to get to the Federation Base, many of them hostile. But Ariel wasn't worried; they'd snuck through tighter nets before. The memory of the Elnubian Run made her chuckle. Mikhail was even more blunt: "Why don't we leave the weapons here, eh? We won't need them on this cruise." In the end, they only took a single burst laser and a few missiles.

"Subject goal: long, long journey. Subject vessel: unviable for journey. Assistance offered." The cold words of Maxwell, the Engi crew member first to join the Kestrel's crew, rung through Ariel's mind. Unviable for journey my ass! she thought, though that didn't stop her from accepting Maxwell's help.

They should have listened to Maxwell more in those early days of the journey, especially when they came upon that asteroid mining colony. Bomfy wanted to blow them out of the sky. "Let's shove a missile up their asses and see what happens when you work with the Rebels."

"Assumption: Incorrect. Colony: formerly Federation. Threats: unnecessary. Mission: continues," Maxwell chirped.

"Now hold on a minute there," Mikhail interjected. "The Federation is founded on helping everyone who is a part of it. This colony is in Federation space, even if the Rebels have claimed it. It's our duty to help them!"

"Duty: deliver data to Federation Base. Priority: highest."

"I've had just about enough out of you, tin can," Bomby growled.

"Everyone, calm down!" Ariel had shouted. "We do have a duty to the mission. But our mission is in service of the Federation, and we can't just abandon our ideals for a mission." She turned to Mikhail. "Load the shuttle with 15 missiles and send it down."

The whole crew, even the normally stoic Engi, had been surprised and outraged.

Bomfy: "Are you out of your goddamned mind, captain?!"

Mikhail: "We only have 15 missiles, sir!"

Maxwell: "Duty to mission incompatible with goods transfer. Probably of mission success: low. Recommend revise decision."

"I know you all probably think I'm nuts, but these colonists need to survive out here. With the rebel blockade, not only can they not get the explosives they need for their mining, but they won't have anything to trade with the Rebels. They'll die out here, or worse: enslaved by the Rebels." Ariel looked out the viewport at the colony. "No, we must honor our duty to the Federation. Mikhail, send the shuttle down immediately."

To their credit, the crew had accepted her orders with salutes and swift obedience. The colony wanted to reciprocate, but all they had to offer was a batch of navigational buoys. It had been Bomfy who thought up a novel use for them: "We could reprogram them to match our jump signature. They won't fool the rebels for long, and we can't overuse them lest the Rebels catch on to us. But they might buy us some time."

"I'd trade all of those damned buoys for a single missile," Mikhail later shouted to Charlie, both of them hunched behind consoles and spent missile tubes, trading blaster shots with pirate intruders.

"Their shields are down," Ariel's voice popped on the comm. "Open fire!"

"I'll cover you!" Charlie shouted to Mikhail as he stood up from cover and unleashed a barrage of blasts. Mikhail knew he had only moments before Charlie's blaster overheated, so he bolted from cover to trigger the weapons to fire.

"Firing!" he shouted as he rolled back to cover. The Kestrel shuddered as several laser and ion blasts shot out from the bow, arced across space, and silently impacted the pirate scout. The pirates, shocked by the destruction of their ship detailed on the displays, left themselves open to attack. Mikhail quicked blasted one, while Charlie knocked the other to the ground with his overheated blaster.

"Phew!" Charlie had said. "If I knew you guys were getting into tussles like these, I would have stayed on that moon!"

The FTL drive disengaged, and the Federation base came into communication range. "Open a channel to Admiral Tully immediately!" Ariel ordered Maxim, the recently recruited Rockman.

"Opening a channel," Maxim rumbled.

Ariel gave one last thought to the journey behind them. After the Lanius attack had partially damaged the data drive that was their mission, Bomfy and Maxwell managed to repair it. However, in doing so, they had unwittingly disabled the encryption on the device, which immediately displayed a hologram showing a massive Rebel Flagship with only a few weak points. She had a feeling that the Kestrel, banged up but also upgraded with new systems and weapons, would be tasked to engage the Flagship. Certainly the other fighters wouldn't be able to take it on, and the cruisers would be too busy engaging the much larger Rebel fleet.

She glanced at the ship's manifest: chain laser, charge ion, burst laser, drone parts, repurposed navigational buoys... She chuckled at the buoys, remembering how long ago it seemed they encountered the mining colony. Then a sudden thought came to her unbidden; she felt compelled to act on it.

"Mikhail," she said through the comm, "deploy the remaining navigational buoys."

All she heard was laughter over the comm and the thud of the cargo bay doors opening.

By the way, in case you're curious, I did end up winning that round.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

May The Force Be a Good Starting Point

Oh xkcd, how wonderfully whimsical you can be at times. Today's post made me want to test out what I get on my Android via Swiftkey. Here are my results:

  • [Elementary, my dear] friend of mine
  • [Say hello to my little] brother*
  • [Toto, I've a feeling we're not] going to be in the downstairs book bag
  • [Bond. James Bond] with the plaster guy
  • [I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch] the video
  • [Goonies never say] never
  • [You have my sword. And my Bow. And my] Android phone
  • [Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You] can upload their own studies of every drug interaction
  • [Revenge is a dish best served] from my Android phone
  • [They may take our lives, but they will never take our] word for it.
*I don't have a little brother.

  • I know you'll pass it because you're awesome and I will be in NJ this weekend till probably 4 on Sunday night.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Explaining Net Neutrality

I was reading this article about net neutrality and thinking about how to explain net neutrality to my non-tech friends. While I like the way it's written, it won't reach most of my tech friends even if I spam it on Twitter/Facebook/Google+. Then I started thinking about the analogy of net neutrality to electricity... and then I did this:
Here's a Simple Explanation of Electrical Neutrality And How It Affects You — In Plain English
Currently, when you access the electricity on your dishwasher, coffee maker or TV, you get to use electricity at pretty much the same speed everyone else does. The electricity you use simply by using your appliances is treated equally by the companies that have built the infrastructure of the electrical grid — electric companies like National Grid* and Ambit Energy. 
This state of affairs, broadly, is called "electrical neutrality." Everyone gets the same treatment. 
And it's about to change. 
New rules
The Department of Energy (DoE) — which regulates how electricity providers are allowed to handle electrical transmission — said yesterday that it would create new rules that may allow electric companies to treat electricity differently. Some people — companies big enough to pay extra, basically — may get cheaper electricity than the rest of us. Here's what the DoE specifically said: 
The [DoE] will propose ... that electric companies would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers, along with the ability to enter into individual negotiations with appliance manufacturers. In all instances, electric companies would need to act in a commercially reasonable manner subject to review on a case-by-case basis. Exactly what the baseline level of service would be, the construction of a 'commercially reasonable' standard, and the manner in which disputes would be resolved, are all among the topics on which the DoE will be seeking comment. 
DoE chairman Tom Wheeler elaborated on that in a blog post today. 
The devil, naturally, is in the details. 
Instead of treating everyone equally, electric companies will only be required to give you a "baseline" level of service. Some people — again, likely companies rather than individuals — will be able to get more and cheaper electricity. 
The change came about because a federal court recently ruled that the DoE does not have the power to regulate electricity the same way it regulates phones. With phones, companies have to supply everyone with the same hardwire service — even if they live way out in the countryside where it's very expensive to put up the lines. The electrical grid used to work that way too — companies had to give you the same service even if you cost them more — but that's now going to change. 
Some appliances will get less electricity
The big change will be around companies like Kenmore. Currently, sometimes almost a third of all electricity is Kenmore's appliances. Kenmore often accounts for nearly 50% of all electricity usage at any one time. Over time, companies like National Grid have gotten tired of serving electricity hogs like Kenmore and paying for the privilege of doing so. By amazing coincidence, the speed at which National Grid delivered electricity to Kenmore appliances started to get slower and slower. 
So Kenmore reached a deal with National Grid: Kenmore would pay National Grid for a direct connection between its electricity transfer stations and National Grid's, so that Kenmore's electricity didn't have to go through the interconnect companies. As if by magic, Kenmore electricity usage went up again. (This wasn't the first time that an electric company has made a major decision like this: In 2007, National Grid blocked electricity to Fridgidare appliances and in 2005 NSTAR blocked people from using electricity for coffee makers.) 
Kenmore CEO Reed Hastings is actually hopping mad about this: He believes that all companies' electricity usage should be treated equally, and if electric companies are in the business of providing electricity, they should do just that in aggregate —and not pick winners and losers based on the fees they're willing to pay. 
National Grid, obviously, has the opposite view. If it is to serve Kenmore at the same prices it serves your coffee maker, then Kenmore is essentially getting a huge service for free, National Grid argues. 
'There is no free lunch'
Ambit Energy has been even more blunt. Kenmore has built a business that requires a huge amount of electricity, but it doesn't want to pay for it, Ambit Energy argued recently: 
As we all know, there is no free lunch, and there’s also no cost-free delivery of electricity.  Someone has to pay that cost.  Mr. Hastings’ arrogant proposition is that everyone else should pay but Kenmore.  That may be a nice deal if he can get it.  But it’s not how electricity, or the electrical grid for that matter, has ever worked. 
The DoE's impending ruling will change this landscape a bit. It looks as if the DoE will require National Grid and Ambit Energy to offer Kenmore et al. a baseline level of service, but companies will be able to pay to get faster service. The advantage, obviously, will go to the richest companies (or the companies whose web apps are so cleverly designed that they use electricity in a miserly fashion). 
Moreover, today's "baseline" service may be perfectly adequate for most companies who only make basic appliances. But in the future "baseline" electrical service might be a bit like baseline tube and knob wiring was in the 1920s — a miracle at the time, but completely hopeless now.
In other words, it would be the end of electrical neutrality and the winners would be those who pay to win. Even if you don't have a dishwasher yourself, you could see the effects in the dishwashing speeds of restaurants you visit — some could slow way down comparatively.  
'They are flat out wrong'
The DoE says that's not going to happen. Doe chairman Tom Wheeler said: 
There are reports that the DoE is gutting the Open Electrical Grid rule. They are flat out wrong. Tomorrow we will circulate to the Commission a new Open Electrical Grid proposal that will restore the concepts of electrical neutrality consistent with the court's ruling in January. ... behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted. 
But ... as long as some players will be able to pay to get more than baseline service, it looks a lot like the "baseline" will end up being the lowest tier of service, for the web's low-electricity losers.
* Note: I inserted real companies to make this fake article work, but none of them did any of this. 

I know it's not perfect, but it was at least an interesting experience. I still don't think it will help explain this issue to non-techies, but hey, it can't hurt.
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