Frets of Fire – free Guitar Hero style game for PC

(via MAKEzine blog)
It had to happen sooner or later.  Nearly every great game for consoles has someone in the open-source or freeware world try to recreate it on the PC (e.g. StepMania from Dance Dance Revolution).  The latest game to get this treatment is the incredibly popular (often referenced by Bill Harris as the greatest game ever) Guitar Hero, now mimicked as Frets of Fire.  Although designed to be played via keyboard, I expect this will soon be setup to work with a Guitar Hero controller, as the hook-up to PC mod has already been worked on.

Frets on Fire is a game of musical skill and fast fingers. The aim of the game is to play guitar with the keyboard as accurately as possible.

fretsonfire1.jpg

A video demonstration of the game is available at YouTube.

[tags]Frets on fire, Guitar Hero[/tags]

The why of the 24-second shot clock

More useless knowledge that I found in my daily readings. Apparently, basketball used to be a slow-paced boring game (and yes, I know for some it is now a moderate or fast-paced boring game – this is for the folks that like the sport). When professional basketball leagues first played, a team could hold the ball as long as desired – typically until fouled or a realllllly wide open easy shot was seen. As the NBA was facing serious economic issues from declining attendance, a rule few changes were implemented. One of these was the 24 second shot clock.

This sped up the game, and attendance quickly recovered, growing significantly over the next couple of seasons. Scoring also went up, as the option was now try to score or just lose the ball.

The solution to this dilemma [ed. note – of declining attendance] was another rule change, one which might seem simple and obvious to today’s fans, but which was revolutionary for professional basketball at the time. Danny Biasone, the owner of the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals franchise, argued that the league needed to place a limit on how long a team could hold the ball, thereby preventing one side from stubbornly hanging onto the ball until they were fouled (or until the clock ran out) and forcing both teams to play the game at a faster pace. The implementation of this change — what Taylor described as “the single most important innovation in basketball since James Naismith invented the game” — was the 24-second clock. From 1954 onwards, every time a team gained possession of the basketball during a game, they had to attempt a shot within 24 seconds or turn the ball over to the other team — no more hanging on to the ball for minutes on end to run out the clock or force the other side to commit fouls.

The new rule was implemented a little crudely at first (typically by giving a recruit a stopwatch and having him stand on a sideline and yell “Time!” whenever 24 seconds elapsed during a possession), but by the end of the season all the teams in the NBA had set up 24-second shot clocks around their courts that made the timers visible to players, officials, and fans. The innovation was an immediate and obvious success: In 1953 and 1954 combined, only three times did a team score as many as 100 points in a playoff game; in the 1955 playoffs alone, one or both teams scored 100 points or more in over half the contests (eleven out of twenty-one games), and over the course of those two years attendance at NBA games jumped by 50 percent.

Not everyone was a fan of the rule change, but professional basketball is still around today, so enough people supported it.  Read the full article for more details.

[tags]Basketball, 24-second shot clock, Sport history[/tags]

A slew of animated kitty goodness

In my recent web meanderings, I’ve stumbled upon a huge number of animated GIFs and stills. I’ve been collecting these. Some of my favorites have been the stickfigure animations and the kitty animations. I’ll do a big post of some of the good and not-so-good stickfigure animations soon, but right now, I wanted to get the kitty animations in place first. Some of these are WTF is that? animations, some are moronic looking, and some are funny. You decide which is which for you. Hit the read more link below to see all of them.

kitty-boxer.gif kitty-attack.gif kitty-in-bushes.gif

Continue reading A slew of animated kitty goodness

Radiation-proof bike suit

Just in case you ever worried about the need to exercise with 200 mSv (see linked wikipedia definition) or higher radiation levels here is your bike suit, as displayed in the March 1952 issue of Mechanix Illustrated.  I’m guessing that a lead-lined suit makes biking in a century ride a bit impractical.  I suppose after a major nuclear strike, though, we’ll see more short-distance biking, given the extra weight of our protective suits.

lrg_lead_bike_suit.jpg

Lead-Lined Suit specially designed to protect against radioactivity in an A-blast, was designed by Leo Pauwela of Los Angeles and is modeled here by his son. “If it doesn’t land on us, we’re safe,” they say.

[tags]Modern Mechanix, Mechanix Illustrated, Lead-lined bike suit, Exercise after nuclear war[/tags]

Amazing new algorithm to remove photo-blur

While working on adding Digg functionality to articles on my site, I saw this little gem on a new photo-deblurring algorithm recently demonstrated at Siggraph on the Digg main page. This was of interest to me because my moderate hand tremors mean taking good pictures is always a tough thing for me. To compensate for my lack of steadiness, I tend to take multiple pictures of whatever I want to get. This new algorithm is specifically designed to help clear up camera shake blurriness, which should help me.  The bad news is this isn’t likely to show up for another year or two in popular photo-editting software.

camera-shake.jpg In a seminar entitled “Removing Camera Shake from a Single Photograph,” the MIT – U of Toronto research team presented an algorithm to correct high-level blurs at the world’s largest electronic and computer graphics conference today, which hosts “the best and most senior minds in technological innovation,” according to Siggraph spokesperson Brian Ban.

. . .

The algorithm is based on the principal that slight hand motions of even only a few millimeters cause camera rotations, resulting in image blur according to researcher and post-doc Rob Fergus in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

. . .

Geared for users of small handheld cameras, the new post-production technique could eliminate the need for bulky tripods or help camera owners who lack popular (and costly) anti-shake features in newer point-and-shoot cameras. “With lighter, newer cameras, [blurry images] are a common thing. We normally delete them because we don’t know what to do with them,” said Fergus, but the “photos you really care about” can be saved.

The mathematical model, however, cannot correct other kinds of blur, including inadequate depth of field in which images are out of focus. The model also cannot compensate for slow shutter speeds for fast moving objects such as cars.

[tags]Camera blur, SIGGRAPH[/tags]

Happy glow-in-the-dark day

I knew this, and forgot to post it earlier today. For those that aren’t aware of today’s historic event, we’ll let the History Channel website fill us in:

August 6

1945 – Atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima

On this day in 1945, at 8:16 a.m. Japanese time, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, drops the world’s first atom bomb, over the city of Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. At least another 60,000 would be dead by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.

More information on this momentous occasion is available in the full History Channel article. Go read just how bad this was to the victims of the attack.

Oh, and yes, I know someone will be offended by the article subject or my Technorati tags below. I recommend they start their own blog and word it more nicely, however, as I kinda like the macabre humor implied in my wording.

[tags]Today in history, The History Channel, What’s that green glow?, What’s that cloud mean momma?, Hiroshima, Enola Gay[/tags]

Get the latest playlists around the country

(via LifeHacker)

If you have ever wanted to see every song played on every radio station in the US (or at least every station that makes playlists available online, I suppose), then you need to check out yes.com. Using a flash interface, yes.com shows what stations across the country are playing via song name pop-ups in the location played.

yescom.jpg

Continue reading Get the latest playlists around the country

Tennessee (and soon Minnesota) help users find meth dealers

(via boingboing)

Perhaps hoping to shame meth dealers into living more carefully, the way sex offenders presumably do after being listed in sex offender registries (I don’t know if they change their behavior, but I believe that is part of the intention of the program), it seems Tennessee is going to try shaming meth dealers into better lifestyles (go on and check the site – you can look up meth dealers near you).  As written in this Slate article, what does this really do, other than make it easier for addicts with internet connectivity to find a convenient dealer?

What exactly will this punitive harassment accomplish? It certainly won’t encourage meth offenders to assume a lawful place in society. Minnesota State Attorney General Mike Hatch, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate for governor and no softie on the drug issue, considers the meth registry a referral service for users. “What better place to find a meth dealer than on an Internet Web site,” Hatch said last week.

Or maybe not. The Tennessee meth registry doesn’t promise accuracy, covering its ass with a disclaimer on the home page stating that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which is in charge of the database, doesn’t verify any of the information sent to it by counties. If it’s not accurate, why bother?

Even if desirable, are the registries practical? Law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to keep tabs on sex offenders who refuse to register. How are they going to track the thousands of meth offenders streaming out of prisons? Would any police chief, sheriff, or state attorney general advocate such a deployment of resources?

Perhaps the folks responsible for these programs didn’t consider this?  But what does this registry really do?

[tags]Meth offenders registry, Tennessee helps you find a meth dealer[/tags]