Book Report: Exploiting Online Games

This book is about hacking online games. Unfortunately, they started out talking about plenty of stuff which I already had read about. Cheating happens. E.g., people in shoot-em-up games use video drivers that don't fill in the walls, just draw "wire frames"--and thus they can see bad guys through walls. Stuff like that. The economics of MMORPGs, of selling stuff. I guess I heard about this stuff from Slashdot and comp.risks? I dunno. By the time they actually start talking about how to exploit games, I wasn't paying attention any more. And it seems like they assume you have access to some software library that only they have access to? Maybe if I'd kept paying attention, I would have learned some things about reverse-engineering.

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Book Report: Crypto

This last weekend, I pitched in for a playtest of MSPH12 "Jeopardy!". These puzzle-solving endeavors have wonderful moments. Solving puzzles in a team environment--it's very satisfying when my skills complement someone else's and we solve a puzzle quickly by playing off each others' strengths.

I tell people about this stuff, and they're interested at first, until I 'fess up that it's not all about shining flashlights at carefully-constructed paper models of the Las Vegas skyline--it's mostly sitting, thinking, and scritching little notes. It ain't rock and roll, though in conversation I probably paint it exciting.

Of course, I'm thinking about a book as I write this. I'm thinking about Crypto, about another activity full of secret messages.

This book is by Steven Levy and thus has a faux rock-n-roll rebel subtitle: "How the Code Rebels Beat the Government--Saving Privacy in the Digital Age." And there's an awful passage that reminds me of some of Levy's worst writing:

Profane, cranky, and totally in tune with the digital hip-hop of Internet rhythm, they were cryptographers with an attitude.

Argh. Even if the Internet had a rhythm and even if "digital hip-hop" described that rhythm, I don't think the cryptographers could be described as... arrgh. Oh, and he kinda gives partial explanations of some crypto techniques, explanations so incomplete that they're less help than nothing. Arggh, aiyee.



But if you can get past that, this is a pretty well-researched history. Levy talked with plenty of cryptographers and other figures. And he shows both sides--I still think that the Clipper Chip was a bad idea, and maybe I still can't respect Al Gore for backing it--but I can kinda see how he got roped into supporting it; maybe I can see how well-paved his hell-bound road was.

I got an idea of the personalities of Diffie, Rivest, and some other big names. The story of the coining of "cypherpunks" is in here. There are plenty of good anecdotes. All in all, a worthwhile piece of work.

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Book Report: Spook Country

This novel is a lot of fun. There is GIS. There is spycraft. There are references to volapuk, to... I guess William Gibson is showing us that he doesn't need to go quite so far into the future in order to show us weird interactions between interesting circles of human activity. Fun stuff, check it out.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Including a Route Eerily Similar to BATH3's Route

I finally finished writing up my notes from No More Secrets. You're going to wonder why it took two months to write up something so short. But, you know, the writing isn't the only step. There's also the HTML formatting, fixing up the photo titles, and the all-important procrastination.

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Book Report: The Wonga Coup

Some people worry that laryngitis might interfere with their opera singing. Me, I spent the day at home trying to recover from laryngitis, listening to operetta. And I'm glad that I don't rely on my voice as much as I do on, say, my typing. And I'm glad I don't live in Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea is ruled by brutal dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who came to power by bringing in mercenaries. That's not this book's story. This book tells the story of a 2004 coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in which another band of mercenaries fails to take over the country. It's a story of furtive troop movements, unconvincing lies, less convincing confessions made under torture, and corruption. On the one hand it's heartening--many people who heard about the 2004 coup attempt moved to stop it. On the other hand, it's not like preserving the current regime is so wonderful.

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Book Report: The Design of Everyday Things

Yesterday I flew back into the San Francisco bay area after a business trip down South. I was looking out the window as we passed over scenic Fremont. We passed over some bodies of water. I looked down and wondered if this was the site of the "reservoir" in the movie "Sneakers". Then I noticed all of the parking--and I wondered if one of those nearby buildings was a public restroom. Wow, what a great site for a Game clue! An interesting, thematic location is good; but don't ignore parking and bathrooms. Linda Holman says it; Team Snout says it; it must be true.

Functionality is awesome; but without usability, it is nothing. Probably the main book to popularize this idea was The Design of Everyday Things. I finally got around to reading it. The ideas in this book have permeated my world. People talk about usability all the time now, using jargon that was first made popular by this book. I needn't have bothered to read it.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #46

In theory, I am tired of looking at photographs of athletic shoes. Nevertheless, when I picked up the latest issue of Giant Robot and saw the little list at the beginning in which Woody of SNKR FRKR lists the five worst sneaker disasters, I went and dug up photos of them. Mostly they interviewed him to get some perspective on Hiroshi Fujiwara, who has designed sneakers and other things.

Plus, there were plenty of articles that had nothing to do with sneakers. Thank goodness.

Speaking of shoes, apparently if you get shoes that aren't made of leather, they're called "vegetarian". There are lots of vegetarian sneakers out there, including a brand called "wombat", of all things. Who decided to call these things "vegetarian"? Vegetarianism normally means that you don't eat meat. I've read stories about becalmed sailors and trapped mountaineers eating their shoes. Since the next step of desparation generally involves cannibalism, I'd say that a "vegetarian" who refuses to eat his/her shoes because they contain animal products is probably not going to like the alternatives any better.

Oh, what, the magazine? There was an interview with a hand model. Some pretty stills from a Thai western movie. A guy named Binh Danh who develops photographs onto leaves of plants. Good stuff. Check it out.

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Link: No Morse Egress

Those wacky kids at Coed Astronomy have just announced an upcoming game No Morse Egress. At last, a game in which you just solve Morse puzzles and never exit. That's going to be so awesome. Jessen might not like it, but-- What? It's called No More Secrets? Well, that sounds like fun too.

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