Leap Motion 2

UploadVR posted an article this evening about the newest Leap Motion prototype. This paragraph caught my attention:

According to Leap, its goal for the new module is not to package and sell it in Best Buy as the “Leap Motion 2.” Instead, the group wants to work with VR headset manufacturers themselves to integrate the hand-tracking sensor directly.

As much as I love the Oculus Touch and HTC Vive Controllers, accurate hand-tracking in VR is definitely the future. I’m excited not only because of the technology involved, but also because when manufacturers include this in their future headsets, it means that everyone will have it moving forward. We won’t run into another Sega CD / 32X add-on nightmare scenario where our userbase is fragmented between those who have it and those who don’t.

I got a chance to try out the original Leap Motion when we got one at the lab. It was just a few days after they released their major Orion upgrade, and I came away entirely impressed.

Notepad++, “Je Suis Charlie” Edition

Finally got around to updating my version of Notepad++. Was surprised but then delighted by this nugget that types itself out when it restarts:

Freedom of expression is like the air we breathe, we don’t feel it, until people take it away from us.

For this reason, Je suis Charlie, not because I endorse everything they published, but because I cherish the right to speak out freely without risk even when it offends others.
And no, you cannot just take someone’s life for whatever he/she expressed.

Hence this “Je suis Charlie” edition.
– #JeSuisCharlie

Google Drive Is Way Less Sucky

Just under a year ago, I wrote an article about how sucky Google Drive was to use. It was specifically about the Windows application, not the web-based interface.

Today, I’m happy to note that, after installing the newest Google Drive application, I’ve noticed that many of my criticisms have been remedied.

Google Drive's settings menu
Google Drive’s New Settings Menu

1. Google Drive now installs to a folder that accepts existing files.

This was a biggie for me since my Internet is horribly slow. I already had all my Google Drive files checked out into a folder on my hard disk. The old Google Drive app wouldn’t accept anything but a clean slate then duplicated files instead of overwriting them after I copied them into the new folder. This is now fixed and Google Drive started by comparing hashes of my existing library right after installing. Yay!

2. Bandwidth controls!

If you look at the screencap above, you’ll see the bandwidth settings feature which will let you limit bandwidth used for the Google Drive app. This is REALLY handy when you’d like to do other work while syncing instead of saturating your Internet connection.

I’m super happy about both of these changes.

Is it enough for me to switch back from using BitTorrent Sync for my music and pictures? No. I don’t think anything will bring me back to storing my files in the cloud the way we used to. Edward Snowden changed all that. Still, these are very welcome changes.

What I’m using Google Drive for: publicly storing my Minecraft server‘s world files. Players who want a copy can go to the folder in Google Drive and get them. For this use-case, with these application improvements, the service works close to perfectly.

The only outstanding thing that could be remedied is an easy way to download an entire folder at once, zipped.

Disable Oculus Rift Health Warning (Windows)

Oculus Rift Health Warning

I understand the need for a warning when loading an app for the first time off of the Oculus Share store, etc. but as a developer it’s insanely annoying to have to go through this thing every single time you run your game. So, if you’re working on an Oculus Rift app and you want to get rid of it while you work on it, here’s how to do it in Windows.

1. Create a text file called “oculus3d.reg” with these contents and run it.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Oculus VR, LLC\LibOVR]
"HSWToggleEnabled"="1"

2. Open the Oculus VR Config Tool and click on the “Advanced” button underneath the player height field.

3. Check the box confirming you don’t want to see the warning any more.

4. Develop your game faster by being able to save 10 seconds every time you test your game.

Xbox Live Beta Tester 2002

Let me set the scene: It’s 2001, pre-9/11, high school.

Having finally accepted the Dreamcast’s fate and being a major anti-PS2, Dreamcast fanboy (cut me some slack, I was 18 and lived in my parents’ basement), I became enamoured with Microsoft’s first foray into console gaming: The Xbox. I bought one on day one, fervently posted on all of the major forums, racked up hundreds of hours in local multiplayer Halo…

Then, to my happy surprise, I was to be part of the Xbox Live beta test. I was a bit of an online PC gamer at the time (Tribes 2 ftw) and had played quite a few hours of online console games on the Dreamcast.

Fast forward 12 years, and here we are.

I have been re-organizing my office since a number of people have given me boxes of their old videogame collections. In one of my chests, I found my Xbox Live beta tester box, which I received from Microsoft in September of 2002. Here are some snaps!

Original Xbox Live beta box
Original box – names removed to protect the innocent :)
Xbox Live Beta Test Discs
This is before consoles tracked how many hours you’ve played each game, but I bet “hundreds” for MotoGP and Re-Volt, each.
Xbox Live Beta Test Discs
Welcome to the future of gaming!
Xbox Live beta end of life
Set your clocks: 11.15.02.

By 2004 I had moved almost exclusively to the PC. I bought an Xbox 360 but sold it to a friend shortly thereafter, unimpressed. I was also very disappointed that they gave away my Xbox Live GamerTag, which was supposed to be ours for life.

C’est la vie.

GameFace VR

Road to VR has a great article on GameFace’s new VR kit, which has a resolution of 1440p. That’s not the real news, though. The real news is this:

“It’s freeing and intuitive to have a mobile VR headset where you can let the rotation of your body determine the direction of your virtual self. The same can’t be done with tethered VR headsets like the Oculus Rift—where you generally always face the same direction, but use some form of unnatural input to rotate your virtual self—simply because you’d get tangled up in the cord.”

Microsoft is killing it

Here’s a blog post you wouldn’t normally expect to see on this blog. In the past, I’ve not usually been big on the Microsoft stuff. That is quickly turning around. Take a look at all the amazing stuff they did in the last day:

The only bad thing they did was this:

On Hacker News, a chain of people posted the following, which struck a chord with me:

Who would have imagined it 5 years ago?

 

Who would have imagined it five months ago?

For me, I wouldn’t have even imagined this five days ago.

My thoughts on my Oculus Rift DK1

Oculus Rift DK1
Oculus Rift DK1 (photo from Wikipedia)

I’ve had my Oculus Rift Developer Kit Version 1 (DK1) for just under a year, after receiving my kit on April 11, 2013. In that year, I’ve built a few apps and played with a ton of other people’s apps from Oculus Share. My experience with the DK1 is that, while it’s good, it’s not great. It’s funny, because, while the low resolution and heavy screen-door effect were the two initial problems I had with the unit, over time, they took a back seat to another, more basic problem:

The Oculus Rift DK1 wire is fucking annoying. Not just annoying, but a lot of the time it ruins the experience of immersing yourself in the virtual environment. The new term that people are using for this is “presence.” When I’m wearing it, I can’t turn around fully without feeling the wire tickle my neck or hear the breakout box slide across my desk, which makes me worry that it’ll fall off and I’ll break it, so I take the headset off to make sure it’s safe. The wire undoes exactly what the rest of the kit is trying so hard (and succeeding, mostly) to do: immerse me in the experience. All the time that I use the unit, I fear of fully moving in any direction because the wire is there.

That wire has got to go.

I know that Oculus is working its hardest to reduce the latency between the time that you move and the time it shows the movement on the screen in the headset. I know that going wireless will increase that latency. But, hot damn, at this point, I’m almost willing to take a slightly more delayed response if I can do without the wire.

Oculus, Facebook, Carmack, and Abrash

Oculus Rift DK2
Oculus Rift DK2

My first reaction, similar to that of most other developers who are working with the Oculus Rift, upon hearing of the Facebook acquisition of Oculus, was one of intense disappointment. It felt like our favourite band just sold out to a huge record label. Oculus was the embodiment of the VR industry itself: the scrappy little guy, fighting against all odds to prove to the world that he can do it.

All that changed this past week when it was announced that Facebook acquired Oculus.

Enough has been typed and said over the past week, with emotions ranging from “take our ball and go home” to “this is the best thing that could have happened to us.” After letting it settle, thinking about it, seeing John Carmack give his support, then Michael Abrash  leaving Valve to join the team, my feelings on it have completely changed. This change at Oculus is a big deal, in a good way. Oculus now has the best chance of making true VR a reality. They have the best team in the world and the biggest budget behind them to do it. Colour me excited.

How I WAS GOING to use git as a backup scheme for a popular Minecraft server

Update #1: Boo-urns. Github doesn’t support uploading repositories that are > 1GB in size.

It appears that, as much as I want it to be, git is just not the right tool for this job. Instead, I’ve picked up a “100GB” account at Google Drive and will share them there. It’s almost as good and offers the ability to download old revisions as well. I’ve released the world files under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Update #2: Put.io

Ask and ye shall receive. I’m still going to keep my files on Google Drive because I’ve already invested the time to put them there. But the next time I need to do this kind of thing, I’ll be looking at Put.io.

Here is the original post for history’s sake:

Hellblade Mobs Minecraft Server

Hellblade Mobs, my Minecraft server, has been in operation since November 2010. For the first 7 months, it was just me and a few friends, white-listed. One world, no hMod, no Bukkit, no plugins.

One May 24, 2011, that all changed: we went public.

Since then, thousands of players have come and gone, and the server still maintains a healthy buzz. We’ve got hundreds (if not thousands) of memories invested in these blocks, spread across eight worlds. It would be horrendous (and likely fatal for the server) if something happened and we lost it all.

Being a developer with a very crummy Internet connection (10Mbps down, 1Mbps up), I’ve always been nervous about this situation. The world files are GB in size and downloading them takes forever, not to mention the act of uploading them to a backup service like Dropbox. Every 6 months or so, I get so nervous that I begin the laborious task of FTPing my files down to my external drive and making a copy of them on an old PC in the hopes that I never have to use it. Halfway through the life of the server, we switched hosts to the fabulous Nuclear Fallout service (referral link!) and it took forever to do.

There has to be a better way!

A recent event with griefers has brought to light once again of making the server files public, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I thought of the logistics: if only there were some service that I could upload new copies of the worlds over time, uploading just the diffs, and the files could be made for public download whether one wanted an old copy of just a tarball of the newest one… Instantly I thought: why can’t I just put the worlds on Github?

Turns out: I can. Git supposedly is not designed to handle repositories GB in size, but it seems the only effect this has is to slow things down a bit. Compared to the previous situation, I’ll take a 15-minute “add” command with no complaints, thank you very much.

If you’re into Minecraft, you’re more than welcome to come play with us! Connect to minecraft.xandorus.com.

Atari Jaguar Dev Journal 002

I took a bit of time recently to take apart two of my Atari Jaguar joypads. The rubber/plastic screwhole covers, over time, had disintegrated and melted into a gooey, sticky mess on the backs and front of the joypads. It was gross.

If you’ve got old videogame equipment (10+ years) and you’ve noticed the rubber/plastic screwhole covers on the backs of the units or controllers getting soft, I recommend taking them off and avoiding the cleanup you’ll be facing in the next couple years. Otherwise, you’ll have to do what I did and use Goo Gone. The good news is that Goo Gone is amazing and it’s fairly cheap.

Melted screwhole cover gunk
One of the screwhole covers.
Joypad gunked up
Joypad gunked up. Note the cat hair that got picked up along the way. Gross!
Type 1 and Type 2, respectively.
Type 1 and Type 2, respectively.
Type 2 (left) and Type 1 (right)
Type 2 (left) and Type 1 (right)

My Oculus Rift Arrives (Hopefully) April 11

So excited for this.

I’ve been planning out my first game. I’m going to call it Barf. Simply, it will change your view in whacky, unexpected ways whenever you move the headset (and sometimes even if you don’t). Online leaderboards (probably powered by Google App Engine or something of the like [is that thing free still?]) keep track of who has gone the longest before ralphing.

Eee PC 701 as a Dedicated Gaming “Console” via Emulation

I took a few hours recently to set my Eee PC 701 2G Surf up as a dedicated emulator machine. I picked up a dirt-cheap 16GB Sandisk Cruzer USB stick for $9 and downloaded an ISO of Mandriva Linux 2011.0.

This thing is pretty sweet! It runs SNES, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Genesis, MAME, and Sega Master System emulators. Pretty much anything 2D it can handle easily.

Even better, I had a bunch of space left over on the USB stick for mp3s and oggs, so I can listen to some decent music while I’m driving in my car thanks to the audio input jack on my car stereo.

Nerd Overload: The Gecko Surfboard

There’s one thing I know for sure that I will be buying in 2010: The Gecko Surfboard.

It’s a $99 PC built inside a keyboard. How awesome is that?

It runs the Linux operating system and has beefy enough specifications to be able to run web and office apps with ease. I envision a great opportunity for these in the education sector. The devices are so inexpensive and capable, schools could literally hand them out each year to incoming students who would then take them home and bring them back and forth to classes. Data for their apps and school work could be saved in the cloud so teachers and assistants could mark work without ever printing a sheet of paper.

Seriously, it’s this sort of opportunity for a better world through technology that energizes me. It makes me happy to be a developer and happy to be a part of this awesome industry. I’d love to hear stories of cool instances of this hardware at work once it’s released. If you have something to share, please do.

For more information on the Gecko Surfboard keyboard PC, check out http://eeepc.net/the-gecko-surfboard.

Project Natal + OpenSim = Heaven? Getting there!

Microsoft unveiled their new Xbox 360 controller, or, lack-of-controller today at E3. Yes, I’m referring to Project Natal.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, you obviously don’t have a Twitter account. All of the videos I’ve seen thus far are pre-recorded, but if this thing works as good as they make it look, we are all in for a treat.
I have a few questions, which I’m sure you all do as well. Mine are

  1. Will the sensor be a USB device?
  2. If so, has anyone hacked their own drivers yet? :)
  3. How long until someone uses it in a virtual world, like OpenSim?

Combine this with a projection-cube-room like this one, a treadmill floor so you can actually walk, and you’ve got yourself a holodeck, son.