Tag Archives: scratch

Eevee mugshot set for Doom

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/release/2017/11/23/eevee-mugshot-set-for-doom/

Screenshot of Industrial Zone from Doom II, with an Eevee face replacing the usual Doom marine in the status bar

A full replacement of Doomguy’s vast array of 42 expressions.

You can get it yourself if you want to play Doom as me, for some reason? It does nothing but replace a few sprites, so it works with any Doom flavor (including vanilla) on 1, 2, or Final. Just run Doom with -file eeveemug.wad. With GZDoom, you can load it automatically.

I don’t entirely know why I did this. I drew the first one on a whim, then realized there was nothing really stopping me from making a full set, so I spent a day doing that.

The funny thing is that I usually play Doom with ZDoom’s “alternate” HUD. It’s a full-screen overlay rather than a huge bar, and — crucially — it does not show the mugshot. It can’t even be configured to show the mugshot. As far as I’m aware, it can’t even be modded to show the mugshot. So I have to play with the OG status bar if I want to actually use the thing I made.

Preview of the Eevee mugshot sprites arranged in a grid, where the Eevee becomes more beaten up in each subsequent column

I’m pretty happy with the results overall! I think I did a decent job emulating the Doom “surreal grit” style. I did the shading with Aseprite‘s shading mode — instead of laying down a solid color, it shifts pixels along a ramp of colors you select every time you draw over them. Doom’s palette has a lot of browns, so I made a ramp out of all of them and kept going over furry areas, nudging pixels into being lighter or darker, until I liked the texture. It was a lot like making a texture in a sketch with a lot of scratchy pencil strokes.

I also gleaned some interesting things about smoothness and how the eye interprets contours? I tried to explain this on Twitter and had a hell of a time putting it into words, but the short version is that it’s amazing to see the difference a single misplaced pixel can make, especially as you slide that pixel between dark and light.

Doom's palette of 256 colors, many of which are very long gradients of reds and browns

Speaking of which, Doom’s palette is incredibly weird to work with. Thank goodness Eevees are brown! The game does have to draw arbitrary levels of darkness all with the same palette, which partly explains the number of dark colors and gradients — but I believe a number of the colors are exact duplicates, so close they might as well be duplicates, or completely unused in stock Doom assets. I guess they had no reason to optimize for people trying to add arbitrary art to the game 25 years later, though. (And nowadays, GZDoom includes a truecolor software renderer, so the palette is becoming less and less important.)

I originally wanted the god mode sprite to be a Sylveon, but Sylveon is made of pink and azure and blurple, and I don’t think I could’ve pulled it off with this set of colors. I even struggled with the color of the mane a bit — I usually color it with pretty pale colors, but Doom only has a couple of those, and they’re very saturated. I ended up using a lot more dark yellows than I would normally, and thankfully it worked out pretty well.

The most significant change I made between the original sprite and the final set was the eye color:

A comparison between an original Doom mugshot sprite, the first sprite I drew, and how it ended up

(This is STFST20, a frame from the default three-frame “glacing around” animation that plays when the player has between 40 and 59 health. Doom Wiki has a whole article on the mugshot if you’re interested.)

The blue eyes in my original just do not work at all. The Doom palette doesn’t have a lot of subtle colors, and its blues in particular are incredibly bad. In the end, I made the eyes basically black, though with a couple pixels of very dark blue in them.

After I decided to make the full set, I started by making a neutral and completely healthy front pose, then derived the others from that (with a very complicated system of layers). You can see some of the side effects of that here: the face doesn’t actually turn when glancing around, because hoo boy that would’ve been a lot of work, and so the cheek fluff is visible on both sides.

I also notice that there are two columns of identical pixels in each eye! I fixed that in the glance to the right, but must’ve forgotten about it here. Oh, well; I didn’t even notice until I zoomed in just now.

A general comparison between the Doom mugshots and my Eevee ones, showing each pose in its healthy state plus the neutral pose in every state of deterioration

The original sprites might not be quite aligned correctly in the above image. The available space in the status bar is 35×31, of which a couple pixels go to an inset border, leaving 33×30. I drew all of my sprites at that size, but the originals are all cropped and have varying offsets (part of the Doom sprite format). I extremely can’t be assed to check all of those offsets for over a dozen sprites, so I just told ImageMagick to center them. (I only notice right now that some of the original sprites are even a full 31 pixels tall and draw over the top border that I was so careful to stay out of!)

Anyway, this is a representative sample of the Doom mugshot poses.

The top row shows all eight frames at full health. The first three are the “idle” state, drawn when nothing else is going on; the sprite usually faces forwards, but glances around every so often at random. The forward-facing sprite is the one I finalized first.

I tried to take a lot of cues from the original sprite, seeing as I wanted to match the style. I’d never tried drawing a sprite with a large palette and a small resolution before, and the first thing that struck me was Doomguy’s lips — the upper lip, lips themselves, and shadow under the lower lip are all created with only one row of pixels each. I thought that was amazing. Now I even kinda wish I’d exaggerated that effect a bit more, but I was wary of going too dark when there’s a shadow only a couple pixels away. I suppose Doomguy has the advantage of having, ah, a chin.

I did much the same for the eyebrows, which was especially necessary because Doomguy has more of a forehead than my Eevee does. I probably could’ve exaggerated those a bit more, as well! Still, I love how they came out — especially in the simple looking-around frames, where even a two-pixel eyebrow raise is almost comically smug.

The fourth frame is a wild-ass grin (even named STFEVL0), which shows for a short time after picking up a new weapon. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty rare occurrence when playing straight through one of the Doom games; you keep your weapons between levels.

The fifth through seventh are also a set. If the player takes damage, the status bar will briefly show one of these frames to indicate where the damage is coming from. You may notice that where Doomguy bravely faces the source of the pain, I drew myself wincing and recoiling away from it.

The middle frame of that set also appears while the player is firing continuously (regardless of damage), so I couldn’t really make it match the left and right ones. I like the result anyway. It was also great fun figuring out the expressions with the mouth — that’s another place where individual pixels make a huge difference.

Finally, the eighth column is the legendary “ouch” face, which appears when the player takes more than 20 damage at once. It may look completely alien to you, because vanilla Doom has a bug that only shows this face when the player gains 20 or more health while taking damage. This is vanishingly rare (though possible!), so the frame virtually never appears in vanilla Doom. Lots of source ports have fixed this bug, making the ouch face it a bit better known, but I usually play without the mugshot visible so it still looks super weird to me. I think my own spin on it is a bit less, ah, body horror?

The second row shows deterioration. It is pretty weird drawing yourself getting beaten up.

A lot of Doomguy’s deterioration is in the form of blood dripping from under his hair, which I didn’t think would translate terribly well to a character without hair. Instead, I went a little cartoony with it, adding bandages here and there. I had a little bit of a hard time with the bloodshot eyes at this resolution, which I realize as I type it is a very poor excuse when I had eyes three times bigger than Doomguy’s. I do love the drooping ears, with the possible exception of the fifth state, which I’m not sure is how that would actually look…? Oh well. I also like the bow becoming gradually unravelled, eventually falling off entirely when you die.

Oh, yes, the sixth frame there (before the gap) is actually for a dead player. Doomguy’s bleeding becomes markedly more extreme here, but again that didn’t really work for me, so I went a little sillier with it. A little. It’s still pretty weird drawing yourself dead.

That leaves only god mode, which is incredible. I love that glow. I love the faux whisker shapes it makes. I love how it fades into the background. I love that 100% pure “oh this is pretty good” smile. It all makes me want to just play Doom in god mode forever.

Now that I’ve looked closely at these sprites again, I spy a good half dozen little inconsistencies and nitpicks, which I’m going to refrain from spelling out. I did do this in only a day, and I think it came out pretty dang well considering.

Maybe I’ll try something else like this in the future. Not quite sure what, though; there aren’t many small and self-contained sets of sprites like this in Doom. Monsters are several times bigger and have a zillion different angles. Maybe some pickups, which only have one frame?

Hmm. Parting thought: I’m not quite sure where I should host this sort of one-off thing. It arguably belongs on Itch, but seems really out of place alongside entire released games. It also arguably belongs on the idgames archive, but I’m hesitant to put it there because it’s such an obscure thing of little interest to a general audience. At the moment it’s just a file I’ve uploaded to wherever on my own space, but I now have three little Doom experiments with no real permanent home.

Pip: digital creation in your pocket from Curious Chip

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pip-curious-chip/

Get your hands on Pip, the handheld Raspberry Pi–based device for aspiring young coders and hackers from Curious Chip.

A GIF of Pip - Curious Chip - Pip handheld device - Raspberry Pi

Pip is a handheld gaming console from Curios Chip which you can now back on Kickstarter. Using the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, Pip allows users to code, hack, and play wherever they are.

We created Pip so that anyone can tinker with technology. From beginners to those who know more — Pip makes it easy, simple, and fun!

For gaming

Pip’s smart design may well remind you of a certain handheld gaming console released earlier this year. With its central screen and detachable side controllers, Pip has a size and shape ideal for gaming.

A GIF of Pip - Curious Chip - Pip handheld device - Raspberry Pi

Those who have used a Raspberry Pi with the Raspbian OS might be familiar with Minecraft Pi, a variant of the popular Minecraft game created specifically for Pi users to play and hack for free. Users of Pip will be able to access Minecraft Pi from the portable device and take their block-shaped creations with them wherever they go.

And if that’s not enough, Pip’s Pi brain allows coders to create their own games using Scratch, in addition to giving access a growing library of games in Curious Chip’s online arcade.

Digital making

Pip’s GPIO pins are easily accessible, so that you can expand upon your digital making skills with physical computing projects. Grab your Pip and a handful of jumper leads, and you will be able to connect and control components such as lights, buttons, servomotors, and more!

A smiling girl with Pip and a laptop

You can also attach any of the range of HAT add-on boards available on the market, such as our own Sense HAT, or ones created by Pimoroni, Adafruit, and others. And if you’re looking to learn a new coding language, you’re in luck: Pip supports Python, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Lua, and PHP.

Maker Pack and add-ons

Backers can also pledge their funds for additional hardware, such as the Maker Pack, an integrated camera, or a Pip Breadboard Kit.

PipHAT and Breadboard add-ons - Curious Chip - Pip handheld device - Raspberry Pi

The breadboard and the optional PipHAT are also compatible with any Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. Nice!

Curiosity from Curious Chip

Users of Pip can program their device via Curiosity, a tool designed specifically for this handheld device.

Pip’s programming tool is called Curiosity, and it’s hosted on Pip itself and accessed via WiFi from any modern web browser, so there’s no software to download and install. Curiosity allows Pip to be programmed using a number of popular programming languages, including JavaScript, Python, Lua, PHP, and HTML5. Scratch-inspired drag-and-drop block programming is also supported with our own Google Blockly–based editor, making it really easy to access all of Pip’s built-in functionality from a simple, visual programming language.

Back the project

If you’d like to back Curious Chip and bag your own Pip, you can check out their Kickstarter page here. And if you watch their promo video closely, you may see a familiar face from the Raspberry Pi community.

Are you planning on starting your own Raspberry Pi-inspired crowd-funded campaign? Then be sure to tag us on social media. We love to see what the community is creating for our little green (or sometimes blue) computer.

The post Pip: digital creation in your pocket from Curious Chip appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

How to Recover From Ransomware

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/complete-guide-ransomware/

Here’s the scenario. You’re working on your computer and you notice that it seems slower. Or perhaps you can’t access document or media files that were previously available.

You might be getting error messages from Windows telling you that a file is of an “Unknown file type” or “Windows can’t open this file.”

Windows error message

If you’re on a Mac, you might see the message “No associated application,” or “There is no application set to open the document.”

MacOS error message

Another possibility is that you’re completely locked out of your system. If you’re in an office, you might be looking around and seeing that other people are experiencing the same problem. Some are already locked out, and others are just now wondering what’s going on, just as you are.

Then you see a message confirming your fears.

wana decrypt0r ransomware message

You’ve been infected with ransomware.

You’ll have lots of company this year. The number of ransomware attacks on businesses tripled in the past year, jumping from one attack every two minutes in Q1 to one every 40 seconds by Q3.There were over four times more new ransomware variants in the first quarter of 2017 than in the first quarter of 2016, and damages from ransomware are expected to exceed $5 billion this year.

Growth in Ransomware Variants Since December 2015

Source: Proofpoint Q1 2017 Quarterly Threat Report

This past summer, our local PBS and NPR station in San Francisco, KQED, was debilitated for weeks by a ransomware attack that forced them to go back to working the way they used to prior to computers. Five months have passed since the attack and they’re still recovering and trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware typically spreads via spam or phishing emails, but also through websites or drive-by downloads, to infect an endpoint and penetrate the network. Once in place, the ransomware then locks all files it can access using strong encryption. Finally, the malware demands a ransom (typically payable in bitcoins) to decrypt the files and restore full operations to the affected IT systems.

Encrypting ransomware or “cryptoware” is by far the most common recent variety of ransomware. Other types that might be encountered are:

  • Non-encrypting ransomware or lock screens (restricts access to files and data, but does not encrypt them)
  • Ransomware that encrypts the Master Boot Record (MBR) of a drive or Microsoft’s NTFS, which prevents victims’ computers from being booted up in a live OS environment
  • Leakware or extortionware (exfiltrates data that the attackers threaten to release if ransom is not paid)
  • Mobile Device Ransomware (infects cell-phones through “drive-by downloads” or fake apps)

The typical steps in a ransomware attack are:

After it has been delivered to the system via email attachment, phishing email, infected application or other method, the ransomware installs itself on the endpoint and any network devices it can access.
Secure Key Exchange
The ransomware contacts the command and control server operated by the cybercriminals behind the attack to generate the cryptographic keys to be used on the local system.
The ransomware starts encrypting any files it can find on local machines and the network.
With the encryption work done, the ransomware displays instructions for extortion and ransom payment, threatening destruction of data if payment is not made.
Organizations can either pay the ransom and hope for the cybercriminals to actually decrypt the affected files (which in many cases does not happen), or they can attempt recovery by removing infected files and systems from the network and restoring data from clean backups.

Who Gets Attacked?

Ransomware attacks target firms of all sizes — 5% or more of businesses in the top 10 industry sectors have been attacked — and no no size business, from SMBs to enterprises, are immune. Attacks are on the rise in every sector and in every size of business.

Recent attacks, such as WannaCry earlier this year, mainly affected systems outside of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected from Taiwan to the United Kingdom, where it crippled the National Health Service.

The US has not been so lucky in other attacks, though. The US ranks the highest in the number of ransomware attacks, followed by Germany and then France. Windows computers are the main targets, but ransomware strains exist for Macintosh and Linux, as well.

The unfortunate truth is that ransomware has become so wide-spread that for most companies it is a certainty that they will be exposed to some degree to a ransomware or malware attack. The best they can do is to be prepared and understand the best ways to minimize the impact of ransomware.

“Ransomware is more about manipulating vulnerabilities in human psychology than the adversary’s technological sophistication.” — James Scott, expert in Artificial Intelligence

Phishing emails, malicious email attachments, and visiting compromised websites have been common vehicles of infection (we wrote about protecting against phishing recently), but other methods have become more common in past months. Weaknesses in Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) have allowed cryptoworms to spread. Desktop applications — in one case an accounting package — and even Microsoft Office (Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange — DDE) have been the agents of infection.

Recent ransomware strains such as Petya, CryptoLocker, and WannaCry have incorporated worms to spread themselves across networks, earning the nickname, “cryptoworms.”

How to Defeat Ransomware

Isolate the Infection
Prevent the infection from spreading by separating all infected computers from each other, shared storage, and the network.
Identify the Infection
From messages, evidence on the computer, and identification tools, determine which malware strain you are dealing with.
Report to the authorities to support and coordinate measures to counter attacks.
Determine Your Options
You have a number of ways to deal with the infection. Determine which approach is best for you.
Restore and Refresh
Use safe backups and program and software sources to restore your computer or outfit a new platform.
Plan to Prevent Recurrence
Make an assessment of how the infection occurred and what you can do to put measures into place that will prevent it from happening again.

1 — Isolate the Infection

The rate and speed of ransomware detection is critical in combating fast moving attacks before they succeed in spreading across networks and encrypting vital data.

The first thing to do when a computer is suspected of being infected is to isolate it from other computers and storage devices. Disconnect it from the network (both wired and Wi-Fi) and from any external storage devices. Cryptoworms actively seek out connections and other computers, so you want to prevent that happening. You also don’t want the ransomware communicating across the network with its command and control center.

Be aware that there may be more than just one patient zero, meaning that the ransomware may have entered your organization or home through multiple computers, or may be dormant and not yet shown itself on some systems. Treat all connected and networked computers with suspicion and apply measures to ensure that all systems are not infected.

This Week in Tech (TWiT.tv) did a videocast showing what happens when WannaCry is released on an isolated system and encrypts files and trys to spread itself to other computers. It’s a great lesson on how these types of cryptoworms operate.

2 — Identify the Infection

Most often the ransomware will identify itself when it asks for ransom. There are numerous sites that help you identify the ransomware, including ID Ransomware. The No More Ransomware! Project provides the Crypto Sheriff to help identify ransomware.

Identifying the ransomware will help you understand what type of ransomware you have, how it propagates, what types of files it encrypts, and maybe what your options are for removal and disinfection. It also will enable you to report the attack to the authorities, which is recommended.

wanna decryptor 2.0 ransomware message

WannaCry Ransomware Extortion Dialog

3 — Report to the Authorities

You’ll be doing everyone a favor by reporting all ransomware attacks to the authorities. The FBI urges ransomware victims to report ransomware incidents regardless of the outcome. Victim reporting provides law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat, provides justification for ransomware investigations, and contributes relevant information to ongoing ransomware cases. Knowing more about victims and their experiences with ransomware will help the FBI to determine who is behind the attacks and how they are identifying or targeting victims.

You can file a report with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

There are other ways to report ransomware, as well.

4 — Determine Your Options

Your options when infected with ransomware are:

  1. Pay the ransom
  2. Try to remove the malware
  3. Wipe the system(s) and reinstall from scratch

It’s generally considered a bad idea to pay the ransom. Paying the ransom encourages more ransomware, and in most cases the unlocking of the encrypted files is not successful.

In a recent survey, more than three-quarters of respondents said their organization is not at all likely to pay the ransom in order to recover their data (77%). Only a small minority said they were willing to pay some ransom (3% of companies have already set up a Bitcoin account in preparation).

Even if you decide to pay, it’s very possible you won’t get back your data.

5 — Restore or Start Fresh

You have the choice of trying to remove the malware from your systems or wiping your systems and reinstalling from safe backups and clean OS and application sources.

Get Rid of the Infection

There are internet sites and software packages that claim to be able to remove ransomware from systems. The No More Ransom! Project is one. Other options can be found, as well.

Whether you can successfully and completely remove an infection is up for debate. A working decryptor doesn’t exist for every known ransomware, and unfortunately it’s true that the newer the ransomware, the more sophisticated it’s likely to be and a perhaps a decryptor has not yet been created.

It’s Best to Wipe All Systems Completely

The surest way of being certain that malware or ransomware has been removed from a system is to do a complete wipe of all storage devices and reinstall everything from scratch. If you’ve been following a sound backup strategy, you should have copies of all your documents, media, and important files right up to the time of the infection.

Be sure to determine as well as you can from file dates and other information what was the date of infection. Consider that an infection might have been dormant in your system for a while before it activated and made significant changes to your system. Identifying and learning about the particular malware that attacked your systems will enable you to understand how that malware operates and what your best strategy should be for restoring your systems.

Backblaze Backup enables you to go back in time and specify the date prior to which you wish to restore files. That date should precede the date your system was infected.

Choose files to restore from earlier date in Backblaze Backup

If you’ve been following a good backup policy with both local and off-site backups, you should be able to use backup copies that you are sure were not connected to your network after the time of attack and hence protected from infection. Backup drives that were completely disconnected should be safe, as are files stored in the cloud, as with Backblaze Backup.

System Restores Are not the Best Strategy for Dealing with Ransomware and Malware

You might be tempted to use a System Restore point to get your system back up and running. System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date. Also, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration, so don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

Local backups can be encrypted by ransomware. If your backup solution is local and connected to a computer that gets hit with ransomware, the chances are good your backups will be encrypted along with the rest of your data.

With a good backup solution that is isolated from your local computers, such as Backblaze Backup, you can easily obtain the files you need to get your system working again. You have the flexility to determine which files to restore, from which date you want to restore, and how to obtain the files you need to restore your system.

Choose how to obtain your backup files

You’ll need to reinstall your OS and software applications from the source media or the internet. If you’ve been managing your account and software credentials in a sound manner, you should be able to reactivate accounts for applications that require it.

If you use a password manager, such as 1Password or LastPass, to store your account numbers, usernames, passwords, and other essential information, you can access that information through their web interface or mobile applications. You just need to be sure that you still know your master username and password to obtain access to these programs.

6 — How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

“Ransomware is at an unprecedented level and requires international investigation.” — European police agency EuroPol

A ransomware attack can be devastating for a home or a business. Valuable and irreplaceable files can be lost and tens or even hundreds of hours of effort can be required to get rid of the infection and get systems working again.

Security experts suggest several precautionary measures for preventing a ransomware attack.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to Patch Early and Patch Often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

It’s clear that the best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. Other than that, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or avoided completely.

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please let us know in the comments.

The post How to Recover From Ransomware appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Build a Flick-controlled marble maze

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/flick-marble-maze/

Wiggle your fingers to guide a ball through a 3D-printed marble maze using the Pi Supply Flick board for Raspberry Pi!

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah

Using the Flick, previously seen in last week’s Hacker House’s gesture-controlled holographic visualiser, South Africa–based Tom Van den Bon has created a touch-free marble maze. He was motivated by, if his Twitter is any indication, his love for game-making and 3D printing.

Tom Van den Bon on Twitter

Day 172 of #3dprint365. #3dprinted Raspberry PI Controlled Maze Thingie Part 3 #3dprint #3dprinter #thingiverse #raspberrypi #pisupply

All non-electronic parts of this build are 3D printed. The marble maze sits atop a motorised structure which moves along two axes thanks to servo motors. Tom controls the movement using gestures which are picked up by the Flick Zero, a Pi Zero–sized 3D-tracking board that can detect movement up to 15cm away.

Find the code for the maze, which takes advantage of the Flick library, on Tom’s GitHub account.

Make your own games

Our free resources are a treasure trove of fun home-brew games that you can build with your friends and family.

If you like physical games such as Tom’s gesture-controlled maze, you should definitely check out our Python quick reaction game! In it, players are pitted against each other to react as quickly as possible to a randomly lighting up LED.

raspberry pi marble maze

You can also play solo with our Lights out game, where it’s you against four erratic lights eager to remain lit.

For games you can build on your computer with no need for any extra tech, Scratch games such as our button-smashing Olympic weightlifter and Hurdler projects are perfect — you can play them just using a keyboard and browser!

raspberry pi marble maze

And if you’d like to really get stuck into learning about game development, then you’re in luck! CoderDojo’s Make your own game book guides you through all the steps of building a game in JavaScript, from creating the world to designing characters.

Cover of CoderDojo Nano Make your own game

And because I just found this while searching for image content for today’s blog, here is a photo of Eben’s and Liz’s cat Mooncake with a Raspberry Pi on her head. Enjoy!

A cat with a Raspberry Pi pin on its head — raspberry pi marble maze

Ras-purry Pi?

The post Build a Flick-controlled marble maze appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

MagPi 63: build the arcade cabinet of your dreams

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/magpi-63/

Hi folks, Rob from The MagPi here! Issue 63 is now available, and it’s a huge one: we finally show you how to create the ultimate Raspberry Pi arcade cabinet in our latest detailed tutorial, so get some quarters and your saw ready.

MagPi 63

Totally awesome video game builds!

The 16-page-long arcade machine instructions cover everything from the tools you need and how to do the woodwork, to setting up the electronics. In my spare time, I pretend to be Street Fighter baddie M. Bison, so I’m no stranger to arcade machines. However, I had never actually built one — luckily, the excellent Bob Clagett of I Like To Make Stuff was generous enough to help out with this project. I hope you enjoy reading the article, and making your own cabinet, as much as I enjoyed writing and building them.

Projects for kids

Retro gaming isn’t the only thing you’ll find in this issue of The MagPi though. We have a big feature called Junior Pi Projects, which we hope will inspire young people to make something really cool using Scratch or Python.

As usual, the new issue also includes a collection of other tutorials for you to follow, for example for building a hydroponic garden, or making a special MIDI box. There are also fantastic maker projects to read up on, and reviews to tempt your wallet.

MagPi 63

The kids are alright

Get The MagPi 63

You can grab The MagPi 63 right now from WH Smith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

Subscribe for free goodies

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the magazine, and get some cool free stuff? If you take out a twelve-month print subscription to The MagPi, you’ll get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

That’s it for this month! We’re off to play some games.

The post MagPi 63: build the arcade cabinet of your dreams appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Implementing Default Directory Indexes in Amazon S3-backed Amazon CloudFront Origins Using [email protected]

Post Syndicated from Ronnie Eichler original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/implementing-default-directory-indexes-in-amazon-s3-backed-amazon-cloudfront-origins-using-lambdaedge/

With the recent launch of [email protected], it’s now possible for you to provide even more robust functionality to your static websites. Amazon CloudFront is a content distribution network service. In this post, I show how you can use [email protected] along with the CloudFront origin access identity (OAI) for Amazon S3 and still provide simple URLs (such as www.example.com/about/ instead of www.example.com/about/index.html).


Amazon S3 is a great platform for hosting a static website. You don’t need to worry about managing servers or underlying infrastructure—you just publish your static to content to an S3 bucket. S3 provides a DNS name such as <bucket-name>.s3-website-<AWS-region>.amazonaws.com. Use this name for your website by creating a CNAME record in your domain’s DNS environment (or Amazon Route 53) as follows:

www.example.com -> <bucket-name>.s3-website-<AWS-region>.amazonaws.com

You can also put CloudFront in front of S3 to further scale the performance of your site and cache the content closer to your users. CloudFront can enable HTTPS-hosted sites, by either using a custom Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate or a managed certificate from AWS Certificate Manager. In addition, CloudFront also offers integration with AWS WAF, a web application firewall. As you can see, it’s possible to achieve some robust functionality by using S3, CloudFront, and other managed services and not have to worry about maintaining underlying infrastructure.

One of the key concerns that you might have when implementing any type of WAF or CDN is that you want to force your users to go through the CDN. If you implement CloudFront in front of S3, you can achieve this by using an OAI. However, in order to do this, you cannot use the HTTP endpoint that is exposed by S3’s static website hosting feature. Instead, CloudFront must use the S3 REST endpoint to fetch content from your origin so that the request can be authenticated using the OAI. This presents some challenges in that the REST endpoint does not support redirection to a default index page.

CloudFront does allow you to specify a default root object (index.html), but it only works on the root of the website (such as http://www.example.com > http://www.example.com/index.html). It does not work on any subdirectory (such as http://www.example.com/about/). If you were to attempt to request this URL through CloudFront, CloudFront would do a S3 GetObject API call against a key that does not exist.

Of course, it is a bad user experience to expect users to always type index.html at the end of every URL (or even know that it should be there). Until now, there has not been an easy way to provide these simpler URLs (equivalent to the DirectoryIndex Directive in an Apache Web Server configuration) to users through CloudFront. Not if you still want to be able to restrict access to the S3 origin using an OAI. However, with the release of [email protected], you can use a JavaScript function running on the CloudFront edge nodes to look for these patterns and request the appropriate object key from the S3 origin.


In this example, you use the compute power at the CloudFront edge to inspect the request as it’s coming in from the client. Then re-write the request so that CloudFront requests a default index object (index.html in this case) for any request URI that ends in ‘/’.

When a request is made against a web server, the client specifies the object to obtain in the request. You can use this URI and apply a regular expression to it so that these URIs get resolved to a default index object before CloudFront requests the object from the origin. Use the following code:

'use strict';
exports.handler = (event, context, callback) => {
    // Extract the request from the CloudFront event that is sent to [email protected] 
    var request = event.Records[0].cf.request;

    // Extract the URI from the request
    var olduri = request.uri;

    // Match any '/' that occurs at the end of a URI. Replace it with a default index
    var newuri = olduri.replace(/\/$/, '\/index.html');
    // Log the URI as received by CloudFront and the new URI to be used to fetch from origin
    console.log("Old URI: " + olduri);
    console.log("New URI: " + newuri);
    // Replace the received URI with the URI that includes the index page
    request.uri = newuri;
    // Return to CloudFront
    return callback(null, request);


To get started, create an S3 bucket to be the origin for CloudFront:

Create bucket

On the other screens, you can just accept the defaults for the purposes of this walkthrough. If this were a production implementation, I would recommend enabling bucket logging and specifying an existing S3 bucket as the destination for access logs. These logs can be useful if you need to troubleshoot issues with your S3 access.

Now, put some content into your S3 bucket. For this walkthrough, create two simple webpages to demonstrate the functionality:  A page that resides at the website root, and another that is in a subdirectory.


<!doctype html>
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <title>Root home page</title>
        <p>Hello, this page resides in the root directory.</p>


<!doctype html>
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <title>Subdirectory home page</title>
        <p>Hello, this page resides in the /subdirectory/ directory.</p>

When uploading the files into S3, you can accept the defaults. You add a bucket policy as part of the CloudFront distribution creation that allows CloudFront to access the S3 origin. You should now have an S3 bucket that looks like the following:

Root of bucket

Subdirectory in bucket

Next, create a CloudFront distribution that your users will use to access the content. Open the CloudFront console, and choose Create Distribution. For Select a delivery method for your content, under Web, choose Get Started.

On the next screen, you set up the distribution. Below are the options to configure:

  • Origin Domain Name:  Select the S3 bucket that you created earlier.
  • Restrict Bucket Access: Choose Yes.
  • Origin Access Identity: Create a new identity.
  • Grant Read Permissions on Bucket: Choose Yes, Update Bucket Policy.
  • Object Caching: Choose Customize (I am changing the behavior to avoid having CloudFront cache objects, as this could affect your ability to troubleshoot while implementing the Lambda code).
    • Minimum TTL: 0
    • Maximum TTL: 0
    • Default TTL: 0

You can accept all of the other defaults. Again, this is a proof-of-concept exercise. After you are comfortable that the CloudFront distribution is working properly with the origin and Lambda code, you can re-visit the preceding values and make changes before implementing it in production.

CloudFront distributions can take several minutes to deploy (because the changes have to propagate out to all of the edge locations). After that’s done, test the functionality of the S3-backed static website. Looking at the distribution, you can see that CloudFront assigns a domain name:

CloudFront Distribution Settings

Try to access the website using a combination of various URLs:

http://<domainname>/:  Works

› curl -v http://d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net/
*   Trying
* Connected to d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net ( port 80 (#0)
> GET / HTTP/1.1
> Host: d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net
> User-Agent: curl/7.51.0
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< ETag: "cb7e2634fe66c1fd395cf868087dd3b9"
< Accept-Ranges: bytes
< Server: AmazonS3
< X-Cache: Miss from cloudfront
< X-Amz-Cf-Id: -D2FSRwzfcwyKZKFZr6DqYFkIf4t7HdGw2MkUF5sE6YFDxRJgi0R1g==
< Content-Length: 209
< Content-Type: text/html
< Last-Modified: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 19:21:16 GMT
< Via: 1.1 6419ba8f3bd94b651d416054d9416f1e.cloudfront.net (CloudFront), 1.1 iad6-proxy-3.amazon.com:80 (Cisco-WSA/9.1.2-010)
< Connection: keep-alive
<!doctype html>
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <title>Root home page</title>
        <p>Hello, this page resides in the root directory.</p>
* Curl_http_done: called premature == 0
* Connection #0 to host d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net left intact

This is because CloudFront is configured to request a default root object (index.html) from the origin.

http://<domainname>/subdirectory/:  Doesn’t work

› curl -v http://d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net/subdirectory/
*   Trying
* Connected to d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net ( port 80 (#0)
> GET /subdirectory/ HTTP/1.1
> Host: d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net
> User-Agent: curl/7.51.0
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< ETag: "d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e"
< x-amz-server-side-encryption: AES256
< Accept-Ranges: bytes
< Server: AmazonS3
< X-Cache: Miss from cloudfront
< X-Amz-Cf-Id: Iqf0Gy8hJLiW-9tOAdSFPkL7vCWBrgm3-1ly5tBeY_izU82ftipodA==
< Content-Length: 0
< Content-Type: application/x-directory
< Last-Modified: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 19:21:24 GMT
< Via: 1.1 6419ba8f3bd94b651d416054d9416f1e.cloudfront.net (CloudFront), 1.1 iad6-proxy-3.amazon.com:80 (Cisco-WSA/9.1.2-010)
< Connection: keep-alive
* Curl_http_done: called premature == 0
* Connection #0 to host d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net left intact

If you use a tool such like cURL to test this, you notice that CloudFront and S3 are returning a blank response. The reason for this is that the subdirectory does exist, but it does not resolve to an S3 object. Keep in mind that S3 is an object store, so there are no real directories. User interfaces such as the S3 console present a hierarchical view of a bucket with folders based on the presence of forward slashes, but behind the scenes the bucket is just a collection of keys that represent stored objects.

http://<domainname>/subdirectory/index.html:  Works

› curl -v http://d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net/subdirectory/index.html
*   Trying
* Connected to d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net ( port 80 (#0)
> GET /subdirectory/index.html HTTP/1.1
> Host: d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net
> User-Agent: curl/7.51.0
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2017 20:35:15 GMT
< ETag: "ddf87c487acf7cef9d50418f0f8f8dae"
< Accept-Ranges: bytes
< Server: AmazonS3
< X-Cache: RefreshHit from cloudfront
< X-Amz-Cf-Id: bkh6opXdpw8pUomqG3Qr3UcjnZL8axxOH82Lh0OOcx48uJKc_Dc3Cg==
< Content-Length: 227
< Content-Type: text/html
< Last-Modified: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 19:21:45 GMT
< Via: 1.1 3f2788d309d30f41de96da6f931d4ede.cloudfront.net (CloudFront), 1.1 iad6-proxy-3.amazon.com:80 (Cisco-WSA/9.1.2-010)
< Connection: keep-alive
<!doctype html>
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <title>Subdirectory home page</title>
        <p>Hello, this page resides in the /subdirectory/ directory.</p>
* Curl_http_done: called premature == 0
* Connection #0 to host d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net left intact

This request works as expected because you are referencing the object directly. Now, you implement the [email protected] function to return the default index.html page for any subdirectory. Looking at the example JavaScript code, here’s where the magic happens:

var newuri = olduri.replace(/\/$/, '\/index.html');

You are going to use a JavaScript regular expression to match any ‘/’ that occurs at the end of the URI and replace it with ‘/index.html’. This is the equivalent to what S3 does on its own with static website hosting. However, as I mentioned earlier, you can’t rely on this if you want to use a policy on the bucket to restrict it so that users must access the bucket through CloudFront. That way, all requests to the S3 bucket must be authenticated using the S3 REST API. Because of this, you implement a [email protected] function that takes any client request ending in ‘/’ and append a default ‘index.html’ to the request before requesting the object from the origin.

In the Lambda console, choose Create function. On the next screen, skip the blueprint selection and choose Author from scratch, as you’ll use the sample code provided.

Next, configure the trigger. Choosing the empty box shows a list of available triggers. Choose CloudFront and select your CloudFront distribution ID (created earlier). For this example, leave Cache Behavior as * and CloudFront Event as Origin Request. Select the Enable trigger and replicate box and choose Next.

Lambda Trigger

Next, give the function a name and a description. Then, copy and paste the following code:

'use strict';
exports.handler = (event, context, callback) => {
    // Extract the request from the CloudFront event that is sent to [email protected] 
    var request = event.Records[0].cf.request;

    // Extract the URI from the request
    var olduri = request.uri;

    // Match any '/' that occurs at the end of a URI. Replace it with a default index
    var newuri = olduri.replace(/\/$/, '\/index.html');
    // Log the URI as received by CloudFront and the new URI to be used to fetch from origin
    console.log("Old URI: " + olduri);
    console.log("New URI: " + newuri);
    // Replace the received URI with the URI that includes the index page
    request.uri = newuri;
    // Return to CloudFront
    return callback(null, request);


Next, define a role that grants permissions to the Lambda function. For this example, choose Create new role from template, Basic Edge Lambda permissions. This creates a new IAM role for the Lambda function and grants the following permissions:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": [
            "Resource": [

In a nutshell, these are the permissions that the function needs to create the necessary CloudWatch log group and log stream, and to put the log events so that the function is able to write logs when it executes.

After the function has been created, you can go back to the browser (or cURL) and re-run the test for the subdirectory request that failed previously:

› curl -v http://d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net/subdirectory/
*   Trying
* Connected to d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net ( port 80 (#0)
> GET /subdirectory/ HTTP/1.1
> Host: d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net
> User-Agent: curl/7.51.0
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2017 21:18:44 GMT
< ETag: "ddf87c487acf7cef9d50418f0f8f8dae"
< Accept-Ranges: bytes
< Server: AmazonS3
< X-Cache: Miss from cloudfront
< X-Amz-Cf-Id: rwFN7yHE70bT9xckBpceTsAPcmaadqWB9omPBv2P6WkIfQqdjTk_4w==
< Content-Length: 227
< Content-Type: text/html
< Last-Modified: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 19:21:45 GMT
< Via: 1.1 3572de112011f1b625bb77410b0c5cca.cloudfront.net (CloudFront), 1.1 iad6-proxy-3.amazon.com:80 (Cisco-WSA/9.1.2-010)
< Connection: keep-alive
<!doctype html>
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <title>Subdirectory home page</title>
        <p>Hello, this page resides in the /subdirectory/ directory.</p>
* Curl_http_done: called premature == 0
* Connection #0 to host d3gt20ea1hllb.cloudfront.net left intact

You have now configured a way for CloudFront to return a default index page for subdirectories in S3!


In this post, you used [email protected] to be able to use CloudFront with an S3 origin access identity and serve a default root object on subdirectory URLs. To find out some more about this use-case, see [email protected] integration with CloudFront in our documentation.

If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below. For troubleshooting or implementation help, check out the Lambda forum.

Coaxing 2D platforming out of Unity

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/10/13/coaxing-2d-platforming-out-of-unity/

An anonymous donor asked a question that I can’t even begin to figure out how to answer, but they also said anything else is fine, so here’s anything else.

I’ve been avoiding writing about game physics, since I want to save it for ✨ the book I’m writing ✨, but that book will almost certainly not touch on Unity. Here, then, is a brief run through some of the brick walls I ran into while trying to convince Unity to do 2D platforming.

This is fairly high-level — there are no blocks of code or helpful diagrams. I’m just getting this out of my head because it’s interesting. If you want more gritty details, I guess you’ll have to wait for ✨ the book ✨.

The setup

I hadn’t used Unity before. I hadn’t even used a “real” physics engine before. My games so far have mostly used LÖVE, a Lua-based engine. LÖVE includes box2d bindings, but for various reasons (not all of them good), I opted to avoid them and instead write my own physics completely from scratch. (How, you ask? ✨ Book ✨!)

I was invited to work on a Unity project, Chaos Composer, that someone else had already started. It had basic movement already implemented; I taught myself Unity’s physics system by hacking on it. It’s entirely possible that none of this is actually the best way to do anything, since I was really trying to reproduce my own homegrown stuff in Unity, but it’s the best I’ve managed to come up with.

Two recurring snags were that you can’t ask Unity to do multiple physics updates in a row, and sometimes getting the information I wanted was difficult. Working with my own code spoiled me a little, since I could invoke it at any time and ask it anything I wanted; Unity, on the other hand, is someone else’s black box with a rigid interface on top.

Also, wow, Googling for a lot of this was not quite as helpful as expected. A lot of what’s out there is just the first thing that works, and often that’s pretty hacky and imposes severe limits on the game design (e.g., “this won’t work with slopes”). Basic movement and collision are the first thing you do, which seems to me like the worst time to be locking yourself out of a lot of design options. I tried very (very, very, very) hard to minimize those kinds of constraints.

Problem 1: Movement

When I showed up, movement was already working. Problem solved!

Like any good programmer, I immediately set out to un-solve it. Given a “real” physics engine like Unity prominently features, you have two options: ⓐ treat the player as a physics object, or ⓑ don’t. The existing code went with option ⓑ, like I’d done myself with LÖVE, and like I’d seen countless people advise. Using a physics sim makes for bad platforming.

But… why? I believed it, but I couldn’t concretely defend it. I had to know for myself. So I started a blank project, drew some physics boxes, and wrote a dozen-line player controller.

Ah! Immediate enlightenment.

If the player was sliding down a wall, and I tried to move them into the wall, they would simply freeze in midair until I let go of the movement key. The trouble is that the physics sim works in terms of forces — moving the player involves giving them a nudge in some direction, like a giant invisible hand pushing them around the level. Surprise! If you press a real object against a real wall with your real hand, you’ll see the same effect — friction will cancel out gravity, and the object will stay in midair..

Platformer movement, as it turns out, doesn’t make any goddamn physical sense. What is air control? What are you pushing against? Nothing, really; we just have it because it’s nice to play with, because not having it is a nightmare.

I looked to see if there were any common solutions to this, and I only really found one: make all your walls frictionless.

Game development is full of hacks like this, and I… don’t like them. I can accept that minor hacks are necessary sometimes, but this one makes an early and widespread change to a fundamental system to “fix” something that was wrong in the first place. It also imposes an “invisible” requirement, something I try to avoid at all costs — if you forget to make a particular wall frictionless, you’ll never know unless you happen to try sliding down it.

And so, I swiftly returned to the existing code. It wasn’t too different from what I’d come up with for LÖVE: it applied gravity by hand, tracked the player’s velocity, computed the intended movement each frame, and moved by that amount. The interesting thing was that it used MovePosition, which schedules a movement for the next physics update and stops the movement if the player hits something solid.

It’s kind of a nice hybrid approach, actually; all the “physics” for conscious actors is done by hand, but the physics engine is still used for collision detection. It’s also used for collision rejection — if the player manages to wedge themselves several pixels into a solid object, for example, the physics engine will try to gently nudge them back out of it with no extra effort required on my part. I still haven’t figured out how to get that to work with my homegrown stuff, which is built to prevent overlap rather than to jiggle things out of it.

But wait, what about…

Our player is a dynamic body with rotation lock and no gravity. Why not just use a kinematic body?

I must be missing something, because I do not understand the point of kinematic bodies. I ran into this with Godot, too, which documented them the same way: as intended for use as players and other manually-moved objects. But by default, they don’t even collide with other kinematic bodies or static geometry. What? There’s a checkbox to turn this on, which I enabled, but then I found out that MovePosition doesn’t stop kinematic bodies when they hit something, so I would’ve had to cast along the intended path of movement to figure out when to stop, thus duplicating the same work the physics engine was about to do.

But that’s impossible anyway! Static geometry generally wants to be made of edge colliders, right? They don’t care about concave/convex. Imagine the player is standing on the ground near a wall and tries to move towards the wall. Both the ground and the wall are different edges from the same edge collider.

If you try to cast the player’s hitbox horizontally, parallel to the ground, you’ll only get one collision: the existing collision with the ground. Casting doesn’t distinguish between touching and hitting. And because Unity only reports one collision per collider, and because the ground will always show up first, you will never find out about the impending wall collision.

So you’re forced to either use raycasts for collision detection or decomposed polygons for world geometry, both of which are slightly worse tools for no real gain.

I ended up sticking with a dynamic body.

Oh, one other thing that doesn’t really fit anywhere else: keep track of units! If you’re adding something called “velocity” directly to something called “position”, something has gone very wrong. Acceleration is distance per time squared; velocity is distance per time; position is distance. You must multiply or divide by time to convert between them.

I never even, say, add a constant directly to position every frame; I always phrase it as velocity and multiply by Δt. It keeps the units consistent: time is always in seconds, not in tics.

Problem 2: Slopes

Ah, now we start to get off in the weeds.

A sort of pre-problem here was detecting whether we’re on a slope, which means detecting the ground. The codebase originally used a manual physics query of the area around the player’s feet to check for the ground, which seems to be somewhat common, but that can’t tell me the angle of the detected ground. (It’s also kind of error-prone, since “around the player’s feet” has to be specified by hand and may not stay correct through animations or changes in the hitbox.)

I replaced that with what I’d eventually settled on in LÖVE: detect the ground by detecting collisions, and looking at the normal of the collision. A normal is a vector that points straight out from a surface, so if you’re standing on the ground, the normal points straight up; if you’re on a 10° incline, the normal points 10° away from straight up.

Not all collisions are with the ground, of course, so I assumed something is ground if the normal pointed away from gravity. (I like this definition more than “points upwards”, because it avoids assuming anything about the direction of gravity, which leaves some interesting doors open for later on.) That’s easily detected by taking the dot product — if it’s negative, the collision was with the ground, and I now have the normal of the ground.

Actually doing this in practice was slightly tricky. With my LÖVE engine, I could cram this right into the middle of collision resolution. With Unity, not quite so much. I went through a couple iterations before I really grasped Unity’s execution order, which I guess I will have to briefly recap for this to make sense.

Unity essentially has two update cycles. It performs physics updates at fixed intervals for consistency, and updates everything else just before rendering. Within a single frame, Unity does as many fixed physics updates as it has spare time for (which might be zero, one, or more), then does a regular update, then renders. User code can implement either or both of Update, which runs during a regular update, and FixedUpdate, which runs just before Unity does a physics pass.

So my solution was:

  • At the very end of FixedUpdate, clear the actor’s “on ground” flag and ground normal.

  • During OnCollisionEnter2D and OnCollisionStay2D (which are called from within a physics pass), if there’s a collision that looks like it’s with the ground, set the “on ground” flag and ground normal. (If there are multiple ground collisions, well, good luck figuring out the best way to resolve that! At the moment I’m just taking the first and hoping for the best.)

That means there’s a brief window between the end of FixedUpdate and Unity’s physics pass during which a grounded actor might mistakenly believe it’s not on the ground, which is a bit of a shame, but there are very few good reasons for anything to be happening in that window.

Okay! Now we can do slopes.

Just kidding! First we have to do sliding.

When I first looked at this code, it didn’t apply gravity while the player was on the ground. I think I may have had some problems with detecting the ground as result, since the player was no longer pushing down against it? Either way, it seemed like a silly special case, so I made gravity always apply.

Lo! I was a fool. The player could no longer move.

Why? Because MovePosition does exactly what it promises. If the player collides with something, they’ll stop moving. Applying gravity means that the player is trying to move diagonally downwards into the ground, and so MovePosition stops them immediately.

Hence, sliding. I don’t want the player to actually try to move into the ground. I want them to move the unblocked part of that movement. For flat ground, that means the horizontal part, which is pretty much the same as discarding gravity. For sloped ground, it’s a bit more complicated!

Okay but actually it’s less complicated than you’d think. It can be done with some cross products fairly easily, but Unity makes it even easier with a couple casts. There’s a Vector3.ProjectOnPlane function that projects an arbitrary vector on a plane given by its normal — exactly the thing I want! So I apply that to the attempted movement before passing it along to MovePosition. I do the same thing with the current velocity, to prevent the player from accelerating infinitely downwards while standing on flat ground.

One other thing: I don’t actually use the detected ground normal for this. The player might be touching two ground surfaces at the same time, and I’d want to project on both of them. Instead, I use the player body’s GetContacts method, which returns contact points (and normals!) for everything the player is currently touching. I believe those contact points are tracked by the physics engine anyway, so asking for them doesn’t require any actual physics work.

(Looking at the code I have, I notice that I still only perform the slide for surfaces facing upwards — but I’d want to slide against sloped ceilings, too. Why did I do this? Maybe I should remove that.)

(Also, I’m pretty sure projecting a vector on a plane is non-commutative, which raises the question of which order the projections should happen in and what difference it makes. I don’t have a good answer.)

(I note that my LÖVE setup does something slightly different: it just tries whatever the movement ought to be, and if there’s a collision, then it projects — and tries again with the remaining movement. But I can’t ask Unity to do multiple moves in one physics update, alas.)

Okay! Now, slopes. But actually, with the above work done, slopes are most of the way there already.

One obvious problem is that the player tries to move horizontally even when on a slope, and the easy fix is to change their movement from speed * Vector2.right to speed * new Vector2(ground.y, -ground.x) while on the ground. That’s the ground normal rotated a quarter-turn clockwise, so for flat ground it still points to the right, and in general it points rightwards along the ground. (Note that it assumes the ground normal is a unit vector, but as far as I’m aware, that’s true for all the normals Unity gives you.)

Another issue is that if the player stands motionless on a slope, gravity will cause them to slowly slide down it — because the movement from gravity will be projected onto the slope, and unlike flat ground, the result is no longer zero. For conscious actors only, I counter this by adding the opposite factor to the player’s velocity as part of adding in their walking speed. This matches how the real world works, to some extent: when you’re standing on a hill, you’re exerting some small amount of effort just to stay in place.

(Note that slope resistance is not the same as friction. Okay, yes, in the real world, virtually all resistance to movement happens as a result of friction, but bracing yourself against the ground isn’t the same as being passively resisted.)

From here there are a lot of things you can do, depending on how you think slopes should be handled. You could make the player unable to walk up slopes that are too steep. You could make walking down a slope faster than walking up it. You could make jumping go along the ground normal, rather than straight up. You could raise the player’s max allowed speed while running downhill. Whatever you want, really. Armed with a normal and awareness of dot products, you can do whatever you want.

But first you might want to fix a few aggravating side effects.

Problem 3: Ground adherence

I don’t know if there’s a better name for this. I rarely even see anyone talk about it, which surprises me; it seems like it should be a very common problem.

The problem is: if the player runs up a slope which then abruptly changes to flat ground, their momentum will carry them into the air. For very fast players going off the top of very steep slopes, this makes sense, but it becomes visible even for relatively gentle slopes. It was a mild nightmare in the original release of our game Lunar Depot 38, which has very “rough” ground made up of lots of shallow slopes — so the player is very frequently slightly off the ground, which meant they couldn’t jump, for seemingly no reason. (I even had code to fix this, but I disabled it because of a silly visual side effect that I never got around to fixing.)

Anyway! The reason this is a problem is that game protagonists are generally not boxes sliding around — they have legs. We don’t go flying off the top of real-world hilltops because we put our foot down until it touches the ground.

Simulating this footfall is surprisingly fiddly to get right, especially with someone else’s physics engine. It’s made somewhat easier by Cast, which casts the entire hitbox — no matter what shape it is — in a particular direction, as if it had moved, and tells you all the hypothetical collisions in order.

So I cast the player in the direction of gravity by some distance. If the cast hits something solid with a ground-like collision normal, then the player must be close to the ground, and I move them down to touch it (and set that ground as the new ground normal).

There are some wrinkles.

Wrinkle 1: I only want to do this if the player is off the ground now, but was on the ground last frame, and is not deliberately moving upwards. That latter condition means I want to skip this logic if the player jumps, for example, but also if the player is thrust upwards by a spring or abducted by a UFO or whatever. As long as external code goes through some interface and doesn’t mess with the player’s velocity directly, that shouldn’t be too hard to track.

Wrinkle 2: When does this logic run? It needs to happen after the player moves, which means after a Unity physics pass… but there’s no callback for that point in time. I ended up running it at the beginning of FixedUpdate and the beginning of Update — since I definitely want to do it before rendering happens! That means it’ll sometimes happen twice between physics updates. (I could carefully juggle a flag to skip the second run, but I… didn’t do that. Yet?)

Wrinkle 3: I can’t move the player with MovePosition! Remember, MovePosition schedules a movement, it doesn’t actually perform one; that means if it’s called twice before the physics pass, the first call is effectively ignored. I can’t easily combine the drop with the player’s regular movement, for various fiddly reasons. I ended up doing it “by hand” using transform.Translate, which I think was the “old way” to do manual movement before MovePosition existed. I’m not totally sure if it activates triggers? For that matter, I’m not sure it even notices collisions — but since I did a full-body Cast, there shouldn’t be any anyway.

Wrinkle 4: What, exactly, is “some distance”? I’ve yet to find a satisfying answer for this. It seems like it ought to be based on the player’s current speed and the slope of the ground they’re moving along, but every time I’ve done that math, I’ve gotten totally ludicrous answers that sometimes exceed the size of a tile. But maybe that’s not wrong? Play around, I guess, and think about when the effect should “break” and the player should go flying off the top of a hill.

Wrinkle 5: It’s possible that the player will launch off a slope, hit something, and then be adhered to the ground where they wouldn’t have hit it. I don’t much like this edge case, but I don’t see a way around it either.

This problem is surprisingly awkward for how simple it sounds, and the solution isn’t entirely satisfying. Oh, well; the results are much nicer than the solution. As an added bonus, this also fixes occasional problems with running down a hill and becoming detached from the ground due to precision issues or whathaveyou.

Problem 4: One-way platforms

Ah, what a nightmare.

It took me ages just to figure out how to define one-way platforms. Only block when the player is moving downwards? Nope. Only block when the player is above the platform? Nuh-uh.

Well, okay, yes, those approaches might work for convex players and flat platforms. But what about… sloped, one-way platforms? There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to have those. If Super Mario World can do it, surely Unity can do it almost 30 years later.

The trick is, again, to look at the collision normal. If it faces away from gravity, the player is hitting a ground-like surface, so the platform should block them. Otherwise (or if the player overlaps the platform), it shouldn’t.

Here’s the catch: Unity doesn’t have conditional collision. I can’t decide, on the fly, whether a collision should block or not. In fact, I think that by the time I get a callback like OnCollisionEnter2D, the physics pass is already over.

I could go the other way and use triggers (which are non-blocking), but then I have the opposite problem: I can’t stop the player on the fly. I could move them back to where they hit the trigger, but I envision all kinds of problems as a result. What if they were moving fast enough to activate something on the other side of the platform? What if something else moved to where I’m trying to shove them back to in the meantime? How does this interact with ground detection and listing contacts, which would rightly ignore a trigger as non-blocking?

I beat my head against this for a while, but the inability to respond to collision conditionally was a huge roadblock. It’s all the more infuriating a problem, because Unity ships with a one-way platform modifier thing. Unfortunately, it seems to have been implemented by someone who has never played a platformer. It’s literally one-way — the player is only allowed to move straight upwards through it, not in from the sides. It also tries to block the player if they’re moving downwards while inside the platform, which invokes clumsy rejection behavior. And this all seems to be built into the physics engine itself somehow, so I can’t simply copy whatever they did.

Eventually, I settled on the following. After calculating attempted movement (including sliding), just at the end of FixedUpdate, I do a Cast along the movement vector. I’m not thrilled about having to duplicate the physics engine’s own work, but I do filter to only things on a “one-way platform” physics layer, which should at least help. For each object the cast hits, I use Physics2D.IgnoreCollision to either ignore or un-ignore the collision between the player and the platform, depending on whether the collision was ground-like or not.

(A lot of people suggested turning off collision between layers, but that can’t possibly work — the player might be standing on one platform while inside another, and anyway, this should work for all actors!)

Again, wrinkles! But fewer this time. Actually, maybe just one: handling the case where the player already overlaps the platform. I can’t just check for that with e.g. OverlapCollider, because that doesn’t distinguish between overlapping and merely touching.

I came up with a fairly simple fix: if I was going to un-ignore the collision (i.e. make the platform block), and the cast distance is reported as zero (either already touching or overlapping), I simply do nothing instead. If I’m standing on the platform, I must have already set it blocking when I was approaching it from the top anyway; if I’m overlapping it, I must have already set it non-blocking to get here in the first place.

I can imagine a few cases where this might go wrong. Moving platforms, especially, are going to cause some interesting issues. But this is the best I can do with what I know, and it seems to work well enough so far.

Oh, and our player can deliberately drop down through platforms, which was easy enough to implement; I just decide the platform is always passable while some button is held down.

Problem 5: Pushers and carriers

I haven’t gotten to this yet! Oh boy, can’t wait. I implemented it in LÖVE, but my way was hilariously invasive; I’m hoping that having a physics engine that supports a handwaved “this pushes that” will help. Of course, you also have to worry about sticking to platforms, for which the recommended solution is apparently to parent the cargo to the platform, which sounds goofy to me? I guess I’ll find out when I throw myself at it later.

Overall result

I ended up with a fairly pleasant-feeling system that supports slopes and one-way platforms and whatnot, with all the same pieces as I came up with for LÖVE. The code somehow ended up as less of a mess, too, but it probably helps that I’ve been down this rabbit hole once before and kinda knew what I was aiming for this time.

Animation of a character running smoothly along the top of an irregular dinosaur skeleton

Sorry that I don’t have a big block of code for you to copy-paste into your project. I don’t think there are nearly enough narrative discussions of these fundamentals, though, so hopefully this is useful to someone. If not, well, look forward to ✨ my book, that I am writing ✨!

timeShift(GrafanaBuzz, 1w) Issue 17

Post Syndicated from Blogs on Grafana Labs Blog original https://grafana.com/blog/2017/10/13/timeshiftgrafanabuzz-1w-issue-17/

It’s been a busy week here at Grafana Labs. While we’ve been working on GrafanaCon EU preparations here at the NYC office, the Stockholm office has been diligently working to release Grafana 4.6-beta-1. We’re really excited about this latest release and look forward to your feedback on the new features.

Latest Release

Grafana 4.6-beta-1 is now available! Grafana v4.6 brings many enhancements to Annotations, Cloudwatch and Prometheus. It also adds support for Postgres as a metric and table data source!

To see more details on what’s in the newest version, please see the release notes.

Download Grafana 4.6.0-beta-1 Now

From the Blogosphere

Using Kafka and Grafana to Monitor Meteorological Conditions: Oliver was looking for a way to track historical mountain conditions around the UK, but only had available data for the last 24 hours. It seemed like a perfect job for Kafka. This post discusses how to get going with Kafka very easily, store the data in Graphite and visualize the data in Grafana.

Web Interfaces for your Syslog Server – An Overview: System administrators often prefer to use the command line, but complex queries can be completed much faster with logs indexed in a database and a web interface. This article provides a run-down of various GUI-based tools available for your syslog server.

JEE Performance with JMeter, Prometheus and Grafana. Complete Project from Scratch: This comprehensive article walks you through the steps of monitoring JEE application performance from scratch. We start with making implementation decisions, then how to collect data, visualization and dashboarding configuration, and conclude with alerting. Buckle up; it’s a long article, with a ton of information.

Early Bird Tickets Now Available

Early bird tickets are going fast, so take advantage of the discounted price before they’re gone! We will be announcing the first block of speakers in the coming week.

There’s still time to submit a talk. We’ll accept submissions through the end of October. We’re accepting technical and non-technical talks of all sizes. Submit a CFP.

Get Your Early Bird Ticket Now

Grafana Plugins

This week we add the Prometheus Alertmanager Data Source to our growing list of plugins, lots of updates to the GLPI Data source, and have a urgent bugfix for the WorldMap Panel. To update plugins from on-prem Grafana, use the Grafana-cli tool, or with 1 click if you are using Hosted Grafana.


Prometheus Alertmanager Data Source – This new data source lets you show data from the Prometheus Alertmanager in Grafana. The Alertmanager handles alerts sent by client applications such as the Prometheus server. With this data source, you can show data in Table form or as a SingleStat.

Install Now


WorldMap Panel – A new version with an urgent bugfix for Elasticsearch users:

  • A fix for Geohash maps after a breaking change in Grafana 4.5.0.
  • Last Geohash as center for the map – it centers the map on the last geohash position received. Useful for real time tracking (with auto refresh on in Grafana).



GLPI App – Lots of fixes in the new version:

  • Compatibility with GLPI 9.2
  • Autofill the Timerange field based on the query
  • When adding new query, add by default a ticket query instead of undefined
  • Correct values in hover tooltip
  • Can have element count by hour of the day with the panel histogram


Contributions of the week:

Each week we highlight some of the important contributions from our amazing open source community. Thank you for helping make Grafana better!

Grafana Labs is Hiring!

We are passionate about open source software and thrive on tackling complex challenges to build the future. We ship code from every corner of the globe and love working with the community. If this sounds exciting, you’re in luck – WE’RE HIRING!

Check out our Open Positions

New Annotation Function

In addition to being able to add annotations easily in the graph panel, you can also create ranges as shown above. Give 4.6.0-beta-1 a try and give us your feedback.

We Need Your Help!

Do you have a graph that you love because the data is beautiful or because the graph provides interesting information? Please get in touch. Tweet or send us an email with a screenshot, and we’ll tell you about this fun experiment.

Tell Me More

What do you think?

We want to keep these articles interesting and relevant, so please tell us how we’re doing. Submit a comment on this article below, or post something at our community forum. Help us make these weekly roundups better!

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and join the Grafana Labs community.

Popcorn Time Creator Readies BitTorrent & Blockchain-Powered Video Platform

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-creator-readies-bittorrent-blockchain-powered-youtube-competitor-171012/

Without a doubt, YouTube is one of the most important websites available on the Internet today.

Its massive archive of videos brings pleasure to millions on a daily basis but its centralized nature means that owner Google always exercises control.

Over the years, people have looked to decentralize the YouTube concept and the latest project hoping to shake up the market has a particularly interesting player onboard.

Until 2015, only insiders knew that Argentinian designer Federico Abad was actually ‘Sebastian’, the shadowy figure behind notorious content sharing platform Popcorn Time.

Now he’s part of the team behind Flixxo, a BitTorrent and blockchain-powered startup hoping to wrestle a share of the video market from YouTube. Here’s how the team, which features blockchain startup RSK Labs, hope things will play out.

The Flixxo network will have no centralized storage of data, eliminating the need for expensive hosting along with associated costs. Instead, transfers will take place between peers using BitTorrent, meaning video content will be stored on the machines of Flixxo users. In practice, the content will be downloaded and uploaded in much the same way as users do on The Pirate Bay or indeed Abad’s baby, Popcorn Time.

However, there’s a twist to the system that envisions content creators, content consumers, and network participants (seeders) making revenue from their efforts.

At the heart of the Flixxo system are digital tokens (think virtual currency), called Flixx. These Flixx ‘coins’, which will go on sale in 12 days, can be used to buy access to content. Creators can also opt to pay consumers when those people help to distribute their content to others.

“Free from structural costs, producers can share the earnings from their content with the network that supports them,” the team explains.

“This way you get paid for helping us improve Flixxo, and you earn credits (in the form of digital tokens called Flixx) for watching higher quality content. Having no intermediaries means that the price you pay for watching the content that you actually want to watch is lower and fairer.”

The Flixxo team

In addition to earning tokens from helping to distribute content, people in the Flixxo ecosystem can also earn currency by watching sponsored content, i.e advertisements. While in a traditional system adverts are often considered a nuisance, Flixx tokens have real value, with a promise that users will be able to trade their Flixx not only for videos, but also for tangible and semi-tangible goods.

“Use your Flixx to reward the producers you follow, encouraging them to create more awesome content. Or keep your Flixx in your wallet and use them to buy a movie ticket, a pair of shoes from an online retailer, a chest of coins in your favourite game or even convert them to old-fashioned cash or up-and-coming digital assets, like Bitcoin,” the team explains.

The Flixxo team have big plans. After foundation in early 2016, the second quarter of 2017 saw the completion of a functional alpha release. In a little under two weeks, the project will begin its token generation event, with new offices in Los Angeles planned for the first half of 2018 alongside a premiere of the Flixxo platform.

“A total of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Flixx tokens will be issued. A maximum of 300,000,000 (three hundred million) tokens will be sold. Some of these tokens (not more than 33% or 100,000,000 Flixx) may be sold with anticipation of the token allocation event to strategic investors,” Flixxo states.

Like all content platforms, Flixxo will live or die by the quality of the content it provides and whether, at least in the first instance, it can persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash. Only time will tell whether its content will be worth a premium over readily accessible YouTube content but with much-reduced costs, it may tempt creators seeking a bigger piece of the pie.

“Flixxo will also educate its community, teaching its users that in this new internet era value can be held and transferred online without intermediaries, a value that can be earned back by participating in a community, by contributing, being rewarded for every single social interaction,” the team explains.

Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen when people begin sharing copyrighted content via Flixxo. Certainly, the fact that Popcorn Time’s founder is a key player and rival streaming platform Stremio is listed as a partner means that things could get a bit spicy later on.

Nevertheless, the team suggests that piracy and spam content distribution will be limited by mechanisms already built into the system.

“[A]uthors have to time-block tokens in a smart contract (set as a warranty) in order to upload content. This contract will also handle and block their earnings for a certain period of time, so that in the case of a dispute the unfair-uploader may lose those tokens,” they explain.

That being said, Flixxo also says that “there is no way” for third parties to censor content “which means that anyone has the chance of making any piece of media available on the network.” However, Flixxo says it will develop tools for filtering what it describes as “inappropriate content.”

At this point, things start to become a little unclear. On the one hand Flixxo says it could become a “revolutionary tool for uncensorable and untraceable media” yet on the other it says that it’s necessary to ensure that adult content, for example, isn’t seen by kids.

“We know there is a thin line between filtering or curating content and censorship, and it is a fact that we have an open network for everyone to upload any content. However, Flixxo as a platform will apply certain filtering based on clear rules – there should be a behavior-code for uploaders in order to offer the right content to the right user,” Flixxo explains.

To this end, Flixxo says it will deploy a centralized curation function, carried out by 101 delegates elected by the community, which will become progressively decentralized over time.

“This curation will have a cost, paid in Flixx, and will be collected from the warranty blocked by the content uploaders,” they add.

There can be little doubt that if Flixxo begins ‘curating’ unsuitable content, copyright holders will call on it to do the same for their content too. And, if the platform really takes off, 101 curators probably won’t scratch the surface. There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of what might happen to curators’ judgment when they’re incentivized to block curate content.

Finally, for those sick of “not available in your region” messages, there’s good and bad news. Flixxo insists there will be no geo-blocking of content on its part but individual creators will still have that feature available to them, should they choose.

The Flixx whitepaper can be downloaded here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

The CoderDojo Girls Initiative

Post Syndicated from Nuala McHale original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/coderdojo-girls-initiative/

In March, the CoderDojo Foundation launched their Girls Initiative, which aims to increase the average proportion of girls attending CoderDojo clubs from 29% to at least 40% over the next three years.

The CoderDojo Girls Initiative

Six months on, we wanted to highlight what we’ve done so far and what’s next for our initiative.

What we’ve done so far

To date, we have focussed our efforts on four key areas:

  • Developing and improving content
  • Conducting and learning from research
  • Highlighting role models
  • Developing a guide of tried and tested best practices for encouraging and sustaining girls in a Dojo setting (Empowering the Future)


We’ve taken measures to ensure our resources are as friendly to girls as well as boys, and we are improving them based on feedback from girls. For example, we have developed beginner-level content (Sushi Cards) for working with wearables and for building apps using App Inventor. In response to girls’ feedback, we are exploring more creative goal-orientated content.

The CoderDojo Girls Initiative

Moreover, as part of our Empowering the Future guide, we have developed three short ‘Mini-Sushi’ projects which provide a taster of different programming languages, such as Scratch, HTML, and App Inventor.

What’s next?

We are currently finalising our intermediate-level wearables Sushi Cards. These are resources for learners to further explore wearables and integrate them with other coding skills they are developing. The Cards will enable young people to program LEDs which can be sewn into clothing with conductive thread. We are also planning another series of Sushi Cards focused on using coding skills to solve problems Ninjas have reported as important to them.


In June 2017 we conducted the first Ninja survey. It was sent to all young people registered on the CoderDojo community platform, Zen. Hundreds of young people involved in Dojos around the world responded and shared their experiences.

The CoderDojo Girls Initiative

We are currently examining these results to identify areas in which girls feel most or least confident, as well as the motivations and influencing factors that cause them to continue with coding.

What’s next?

Over the coming months we will delve deeper into the findings of this research, and decide how we can improve our content and Dojo support to adapt accordingly. Additionally, as part of sending out our Empowering the Future guide, we’re asking Dojos to provide insights into their current proportions of girls and female Mentors.

The CoderDojo Girls Initiative

We will follow up with recipients of the guide to document the impact of the recommended approaches they try at their Dojo. Thus, we will find out which approaches are most effective in different regional contexts, which will help us improve our support for Dojos wanting to increase their proportion of attending girls.

Role models

Many Dojos, Champions, and Mentors are doing amazing work to support and encourage girls at their Dojos. Female Mentors not only help by supporting attending girls, but they also act as vital role models in an environment which is often male-dominated. Blogs by female Mentors and Ninjas which have already featured on our website include:

What’s next?

We recognise the importance of female role models, and over the coming months we will continue to encourage community members to share their stories so that we bring them to the wider CoderDojo community. Do you know a female Mentor or Ninja you would like to shine a spotline on? Get in touch with us at [email protected] You can also use #CoderDojoGirls on social media.

The CoderDojo Girls Initiative

Empowering the Future guide

Ahead of Ada Lovelace Day and International Day of the Girl Child, the CoderDojo Foundation has released Empowering the Future, a comprehensive guide of practical approaches which Dojos have tested to engage and sustain girls.

Some topics covered in the guide are:

  • Approaches to improve the Dojo environment and layout
  • Language and images used to describe and promote Dojos
  • Content considerations, and suggested resources
  • The importance of female Mentors, and ways to increase access to role models

For the next month, Dojos that want to improve their proportion of girls can still sign up to have the guide book sent to them for free! From today, Dojos and anyone else can also download a PDF file of the guide.

The CoderDojo Girls Initiative

We would like to say a massive thank you to all community members who have shared their insights with us to make our Empowering the Future guide as comprehensive and beneficial as possible for other Dojos.

Tell us what you think

Have you found an approach, or used content, which girls find particularly engaging? Do you have questions about our Girls Initiative? We would love to hear your ideas, insights, and experiences in relation to supporting CoderDojo girls! Feel free to use our forums to share with the global CoderDojo community, and email us at [email protected]

The post The CoderDojo Girls Initiative appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Julia Reda MEP Likened to Nazi in Sweeping Anti-Pirate Rant

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/julia-reda-mep-likened-to-nazi-in-sweeping-anti-pirate-rant-170926/

The debate over copyright and enforcement thereof is often polarized, with staunch supporters on one side, objectors firmly on the other, and never the twain shall meet.

As a result, there have been some heated battles over the years, with pro-copyright bodies accusing pirates of theft and pirates accusing pro-copyright bodies of monopolistic tendencies. While neither claim is particularly pleasant, they have become staples of this prolonged war of words and as such, many have become desensitized to their original impact.

This morning, however, musician and staunch pro-copyright activist David Lowery published an article which pours huge amounts of gas on the fire. The headline goes straight for the jugular, asking: Why is it Every Time We Turn Over a Pirate Rock White Nationalists, Nazi’s and Bigots Scurry Out?

Lowery’s opening gambit in his piece on The Trichordist is that one only has to scratch below the surface of the torrent and piracy world in order to find people aligned with the above-mentioned groups.

“Why is it every time we dig a little deeper into the pro-piracy and torrenting movement we find key figures associated with ‘white nationalists,’ Nazi memorabilia collectors, actual Nazis or other similar bigots? And why on earth do politicians, journalists and academics sing the praises of these people?” Lowery asks.

To prove his point, the Camper Van Beethoven musician digs up the fact that former Pirate Bay financier Carl Lündstrom had some fairly unsavory neo-fascist views. While this is not in doubt, Lowery is about 10 tens years too late if he wants to tar The Pirate Bay with the extremist brush.

“It’s called guilt by association,” Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde explained in 2007.

“One of our previous ISPs [owned by Lündstrom] (with clients like The Red Cross, Save the Children foundation etc) gave us cheap bandwidth since one of the guys in TPB worked there; and one of the owners [has a reputation] for his political opinions. That does NOT make us in any way associated to what political views anyone else might or might not have.”

After dealing with TPB but failing to include the above explanation, Lowery moves on to a more recent target, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom. Dotcom owns an extremely rare signed copy of Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) and once wore a German World War II helmet. It’s a mistake Prince Harry made in 2005 too.

“I’ve bought memorabilia from Churchill, from Stalin, from Hitler,” Dotcom said in response to the historical allegations. “Let me make absolutely clear, OK. I’m not buying into the Nazi ideology. I’m totally against what the Nazis did.”

With Dotcom dealt with, Lowery then turns his attention to the German Pirate Party’s Julia Reda. As a Member of the European Parliament, Reda has made it her mission to deal with overreaching copyright law, which has made her a bit of a target. That being said, would anyone really try to shoehorn her into the “White Nationalists, Nazi’s and Bigots” bracket?

They would.

In his piece, Lowery highlights comments made by Reda last year, when she complained about the copyright situation developing around the diary written by Anne Frank, which detailed the horrors of living in occupied countries during World War II.

Anne Frank died in 1945 which means that the book was elevated into the public domain in the Netherlands on January 1, 2016, 70 years after her death. A copy was made available at Wikisource, a digital library of free texts maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation, which also operates Wikipedia.

However, in early February that same year, Anne Frank’s diary became unavailable, since U.S. copyright law dictates that works are protected for 95 years from date of publication.

“Today, in an unfortunate example of the overreach of the United States’ current copyright law, the Wikimedia Foundation removed the Dutch-language text of The Diary of a Young Girl,” said Jacob Rogers, Legal Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation

“We took this action to comply with the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as we believe the diary is still under US copyright protection under the law as it is currently written,” he added.

Lowery ignores this background in its entirety. He actually ignores all of it in an effort to paint a picture of Reda engaging in some far-right agenda. Lowery even places emphasis on Reda’s nationality to force his point home.

“I don’t really know what to make of her except to say that this German politician really should find something other than the Anne Frank Diary and the Anne Frank Foundation to use as an example of a work that should be freely available in the public domain,” he writes.

“Think of all the copyrighted works out there for which she might reasonably argue a claim of public domain. She decided to pick the Anne Frank diary. Hmm.”

Lowery then accuses Reda of urging people on Twitter to pirate the book, in order to hurt the fight against anti-Semitism and somehow deprive Jewish people of an income.

“After all sales of the book are used by the Anne Frank Foundation to fight anti-semitism. It’s really quite a bad look for any MP, German or not. (Even if it is just the make-believe LARPing RPG EU Parliament),” Lowery writes.

“Or maybe that is the point? Defund the Anne Frank Foundation. Cause you know I read in the twittersphere that copyright producing media conglomerates are controlled by you-know-who.”

At this point, Lowery moves on to Fight For the Future, stating that their lack of racial diversity caused them to stumble into a racially charged copyright dispute involving the famous Martin Luther King speech.

The whole article can be read here but hopefully, most readers will recognize that America needs less division right now, not more hatred.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Can an Army of Bitcoin “Bounty Hunters” Deter Pirates?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/can-an-army-of-bitcoin-bounty-hunters-deter-pirates-170917/

When we first heard of the idea to use Bitcoin bounties to track down pirated content online, we scratched our heads.

Snitching on copyright infringers is not a new concept, but the idea of instant cash rewards though cryptocurrency was quite novel.

In theory, it’s pretty straightforward. Content producers can add a unique identifying watermark into movies, eBooks, or other digital files before they’re circulated. When these somehow leak to the public, the bounty hunters use the watermark to claim their Bitcoin, alerting the owner in the process.

This helps to spot leaks early on, even on networks where automated tools don’t have access, and identify the source at the same time.

Two years have passed and it looks like the idea was no fluke. Custos, the South African company that owns the technology, has various copyright holders on board and recently announced a new partnership with book publisher Erudition Digital.

With help from anti-piracy outfit Digimarc, the companies will add identifying watermarks to eBook releases, counting on the bounty hunters to keep an eye out for leaks. These bounty hunters don’t have to be anti-piracy experts. On the contrary, pirates are more than welcome to help out.

“The Custos approach is revolutionary in that it attacks the economy of piracy by targeting uploaders rather than downloaders, turning downloaders into an early detection network,” the companies announced a few days ago.

“The result is pirates turn on one another, sowing seeds of distrust amongst their communities. As a result, the Custos system is capable of penetrating hard-to-reach places such as the dark web, peer-to-peer networks, and even email.”

Devon Weston, Director of Market Development for Digimarc Guardian, believes that this approach is the next level in anti-piracy efforts. It complements the automated detection tools that have been available in the past by providing access to hard-to-reach places.

“Together, this suite of products represents the next generation in technical measures against eBook piracy,” Weston commented on the partnership.

TorrentFreak reached out to Custos COO Fred Lutz to find out what progress the company has made in recent years. We were informed that they have been protecting thousands of copies every month, ranging from pre-release movie content to eBooks.

At the moment the company works with a selected group of “bounty hunters,” but they plan to open the extraction tool to the public in the near future, so everyone can join in.

“So far we have carefully seeded the free bounty extractor tool in relevant communities with great success. However, in the next phase, we will open the bounty hunting to the general public. We are just careful not to grow the bounty hunting community faster than the number of bounties in the wild require,” Lutz tells us.

The Bitcoin bounties themselves vary in size based on the specific use case. For a movie screener, they are typically anything between $10 and $50. However, for the most sensitive content, they can be $100 or more.

“We can also adjust the bounty over time based on the customer’s needs. A low-quality screener that was very sensitive prior to cinematic release does not require as large a bounty after cam-rips becomes available,” Lutz notes.

Thus far, roughly 50 Bitcoin bounties have been claimed. Some of these were planted by Custos themselves, as an incentive for the bounty hunters. Not a very high number, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not working.

“While this number might seem a bit small compared to the number of copies we protect, our aim is first and foremost not to detect leaks, but to pose a credible threat of quick detection and being caught.”

People who receive content protected by Custos are made aware of the watermarks, which may make them think twice about sharing it. If that’s the case, then it’s having effect without any bounties being claimed.

The question remains how many people will actively help to spot bounties. The success of the system largely depends on volunteers, and not all pirates are eager to rat on the people that provide free content.

On the other hand, there’s also room to abuse the system. In theory, people could claim the bounties on their own eBooks and claim that they’ve lost their e-reader. That would be fraud, of course, but since the bounties are in Bitcoin this isn’t easy to prove.

That brings us to the final question. What happens of a claimed bounty identifies a leaker? Custos admits that this alone isn’t enough evidence to pursue a legal case, but the measures that are taken in response are up to the copyright holders.

“A claim of a bounty is never a sufficient legal proof of piracy, instead, it is an invaluable first piece of evidence on which a legal case could be built if the client so requires. Legal prosecution is definitely not always the best approach to dealing with leaks,” Lutz says.

Time will tell if the Bitcoin bounty approach works…

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Moonhack 2017: a new world record!

Post Syndicated from Katherine Leadbetter original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/moonhack-2017-world-record/

With the incredible success of this year’s Moonhack under their belt, here’s Code Club Australia‘s Kelly Tagalan with a lowdown on the event, and why challenges such as these are so important.

On 15 August 2017, Code Clubs around the globe set a world record for the most kids coding in a day! From Madrid to Manila and from Sydney to Seoul, kids in Code Clubs, homes, and community centres around the world used code in order to ‘hack the moon’.

Moonhack 2017 Recap: WORLDWIDE CODING

We set a world record of the most kids coding at the same time not only across Australia….but across the WORLD! Watch our recap of our day hackathon of kids coding across the globe.

The Moonhack movement

The first Moonhack took place in Sydney in 2016, where we set a record of 10207 kids coding in a day.

Images of children taking part in Code Club Australia's Moonhack 2017

The response to Moonhack, not just in Australia but around the world, blew us away, and this year we decided to make the challenge as global as possible.

“I want to create anything that can benefit the life of one person, hundreds of people, or maybe even thousands.” – Moonhack Code Club kid, Australia.

The Code Club New Zealand team helped to create and execute projects with help from Code Club in the UK, and Code Club Canada, France, South Korea, Bangladesh, and Croatia created translated materials to allow even more kids to take part.

Moonhack 2017

The children had 24 hours to try coding a specially made Moonhack project using Python, Scratch or Scratch Jr. Creative Moonhackers even made their own custom projects, and we saw amazing submissions on a range of themes, from moon football to heroic dogs saving our natural satellite from alien invaders!

Images of children taking part in Code Club Australia's Moonhack 2017

In the end, 28575 kids from 56 countries and from 600 Code Clubs took part in Moonhack to set a new record. Record Setter founder and Senior Adjudicator, Corey Henderson, travelled to Sydney to Moonhack Mission Control to verify the record, and we were thrilled to hear that we came close to tripling the number of kids who took part last year!

The top five Moonhack contributing countries were Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the UK, and Croatia, but we saw contributions from so many more amazing places, including Syria and Guatemala. The event was a truly international Code Club collaboration!

Images of children taking part in Code Club Australia's Moonhack 2017

The founder of Code Club Bangladesh, Shajan Miah, summed up the spirit of Moonhack well: “Moonhack was a great opportunity for children in Bangladesh to take part in a global event. It connected the children with like-minded people across the world, and this motivated them to want to continue learning coding and programming. They really enjoyed the challenge!”

Images of children taking part in Code Club Australia's Moonhack 2017

Of course, the most important thing about Moonhack was that the kids had fun taking part and experienced what it feels like to create with code. One astute nine-year-old told us, “What I love about coding is that you can create your own games. Coding is becoming more important in the work environment and I want to understand it and write it.”

This is why we Moonhack: to get kids excited about coding, and to bring them into the global Code Club community. We hope that every Moonhacker who isn’t yet part of a Code Club will decide to join one soon, and that their experience will help guide them towards a future involving digital making. Here’s to Moonhack 2018!

Join Code Club

With new school terms starting and new clubs forming, there’s never been a better time to volunteer for a Code Club! With the official extension of the Code Club age range from 9-11 to 9-13, there are even more opportunities to get involved.

The Code Club logo with added robots - Moonhack 2017

If you’re ready to volunteer and are looking for a club to join, head to the Code Club International website to find your local network. There you’ll also find information on starting a new club from scratch, anywhere in the world, and you can read all about making your venue, such as a library, youth club, or office, available as a space for a Code Club.

The post Moonhack 2017: a new world record! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Pioneers Summer Camp 2017

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pioneers-summer-camp-2017/

In July, winners of the first two Pioneers challenges came together at Google HQ at Kings Cross in London for the Pioneers Summer Camp. This event was a special day to celebrate their awesomeness, and to give them access to some really cool stuff.

Pioneers: Google Summer Camp 2017

In July this year, winners of the first two Pioneers challenges came to Google HQ in London’s Kings Cross to meet, make and have an awesome time.

The lucky Pioneers

The summer camp was organised specifically for the winners of the two Pioneers challenges Make us laugh and Make it outdoors. Invitations went out to every team that won an award, including the Theme winners, winners in categories such as Best Explanation or Inspiring Journey, and those teams that received a Judges’ Recognition. We also allowed their mentors to attend, because they earned it too.

Code Club Scotland on Twitter

Excited about @Raspberry_Pi Pioneers day at @Google today with @jm_paterson and The Frontier Team #makeyourideas https://t.co/wZqfqqgZuL

With teams of excited Pioneers arriving from all over the UK, the day was bound to be a great success and a fun experience for all.

The Pioneers Summer Camp

The event took place at the rather impressive Google HQ in King’s Cross, London. Given that YouTube Space London is attached to this building, everyone, including the mentors and the Raspberry Pi team, was immediately eager to explore.

YouTube Space London

image c/o IBT

In rooms designed around David-Bowie-associated themes, e.g. Major Tom and Aladdin Sane, our intrepid Pioneers spent the morning building robots and using the Google AIY Projects kit to control their builds. Every attendee got to keep their robot and AIY kits, to be able to continue their tech experiments at home. They also each received their own Raspberry Pi, as well as some Google goodies and a one-of-a-kind Raspberry Pi hoody…much to the jealousy of many of our Twitter followers.

Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017
Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017
Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017

Meanwhile, mentors were invited to play with their own AIY kits, and the team from pi-top took accompanying parents aside to introduce them to the world of Scratch. This in itself was wonderful to witness: nervous parents started the day anxiously prodding at their pi-top screens, and they ended it with a new understanding of why code and digital making makes their kids tick.

Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017

After the making funtimes, the Pioneers got to learn about career opportunities within the field of digital making from some of the best in the industry. Representatives from Google, YouTube, and the Shell Scholarship Fund offered insights into their day-to-day work and some of their teams’ cool projects.

Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017
Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017
Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017

And to top off the day, our Pioneers winners went on a tour of the YouTube studios, a space to which only YouTube Creators have access. Lucky bunch!

The evening

When the evening rolled around, Pioneers got to work setting up their winning projects. From singing potatoes to sun-powered instruments and builds for plant maintenance, the array of ideas and creations showcased the incredible imagination these young makers have displayed throughout the first two seasons of Pioneers.

Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017
Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017
Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017
Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017

As well as a time for showing off winning makes, the evening was also an opportunity for Pioneers, mentors, and parents to mingle, chat, swap Twitter usernames, and get to know others as interested in making and changing the world as they are.

Raspberry Pi Pioneers Summer Camp 2017

The Pioneers Summer Camp came to a close with a great Q&A by some eager Pioneers, followed by praise from Raspberry Pi Foundation CEO Philip Colligan, Mike Warriner of Google UK, and Make it outdoors judge Georgina Asmah from the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund.

Become a Pioneer

We’ll be announcing the next Pioneers challenge on Monday 18 September, and we’re so excited to see what our makers do with the next theme. We’ve put a lot of brain power into coming up with the ultimate challenge, and it’s taking everything we have not to let it slip!

Well, maybe I can just…don’t tell anyone, but here’s a sneek peak at part of the logo. Shhhh…

One thing we can tell you: this season of Pioneers will include makers from the Republic of Ireland, thanks in part to the incredible support from our team at CoderDojo. Woohoo!

We’ll announce the challenge via the Raspberry Pi blog, but make sure to sign up for the Pioneers newsletter to get all the latest information directly to your inbox.

The post Pioneers Summer Camp 2017 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Create a text-based adventure game with FutureLearn

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/text-based-futurelearn/

Learning with Raspberry Pi has never been so easy! We’re adding a new course to FutureLearn today, and you can take part anywhere in the world.

FutureLearn: the story so far…

In February 2017, we were delighted to launch two free online CPD training courses on the FutureLearn platform, available anywhere in the world. Since the launch, more than 30,000 educators have joined these courses: Teaching Programming in Primary Schools, and Teaching Physical Computing with Raspberry Pi and Python.

Futurelearn Raspberry Pi

Thousands of educators have been building their skills – completing tasks such as writing a program in Python to make an LED blink, or building a voting app in Scratch. The two courses are scaffolded to build skills, week by week. Learners are supported by videos, screencasts, and articles, and they have the chance to apply what they have learned in as many different practical projects as possible.

We have had some excellent feedback from learners on the courses, such as Kyle Wilke who commented: “Fantastic course. Nice integration of text-based and video instruction. Was very impressed how much support was provided by fellow students, kudos to us. Can’t wait to share this with fellow educators.”

Brand new course

We are launching a new course this autumn. You can join lead educator Laura Sachs to learn object-oriented programming principles by creating your own text-based adventure game in Python. The course is aimed at educators who have programming experience, but have never programmed in the object-oriented style.

Future Learn: Object-oriented Programming in Python trailer

Our newest FutureLearn course in now live. You can join lead educator Laura Sachs to learn object-oriented programming principles by creating your own text-based adventure game in Python. The course is aimed at educators who have programming experience, but have never programmed in the object-oriented style.

The course will introduce you to the principles of object-oriented programming in Python, showing you how to create objects, functions, methods, and classes. You’ll use what you learn to create your own text-based adventure game. You will have the chance to share your code with other learners, and to see theirs. If you’re an educator, you’ll also be able to develop ideas for using object-oriented programming in your classroom.

Take part

Sign up now to join us on the course, starting today, September 4. Our courses are free to join online – so you can learn wherever you are, and whenever you want.

The post Create a text-based adventure game with FutureLearn appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Hello World Issue 3: Approaching Assessment

Post Syndicated from Carrie Anne Philbin original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hello-world-3/

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and the latest issue of Hello World is here! Hello World is our magazine about computing and digital making for educators, and it’s a collaboration between The Raspberry Pi Foundation and Computing at School, part of the British Computing Society.

The front cover of Hello World Issue 3

In issue 3, our international panel of experts takes an in-depth look at assessment in computer science.

Approaching assessment, and much more

Our cover feature explores innovative, practical, and effective approaches to testing and learning. The issue is packed with other great resources, guides, features and lesson plans to support educators.

Highlights include:

  • Tutorials and lesson plans on Scratch Pong, games design, and the database-building Python library, SQLite3
  • Supporting learning with online video
  • The potential of open-source resources in education
  • A bluffer’s guide to Non-Examination Assessments (NEA) for GCSE Computer Science
  • A look at play and creativity in programming

Get your copy of Hello World 3

Hello World is available as a free Creative Commons download for anyone around the world who is interested in Computer Science and digital making education. Grab the latest issue straight from the Hello World website.

Thanks to the very generous support of our sponsors BT, we are able to offer free printed versions of the magazine to serving educators in the UK. It’s for teachers, Code Club volunteers, teaching assistants, teacher trainers, and others who help children and young people learn about computing and digital making. Remember to subscribe to receive your free copy, posted directly to your home.

Free book!

As a special bonus for our print subscribers, this issue comes bundled with a copy of Ian Livingstone and Shahneila Saeed’s new book, Hacking the Curriculum: Creative Computing and the Power of Play

Front cover of Hacking the Curriculum by Ian Livingstone and Shahneila Saeed - Hello World 3

This gorgeous-looking image comes courtesy of Jonathan Green

The book explains the critical importance of coding and computing in modern schools, and offers teachers and school leaders practical guidance on how to improve their computing provision. Thanks to Ian Livingstone, Shahneila Saeed, and John Catt Educational Ltd. for helping to make this possible. The book will be available with issue 3 to new subscribers while stocks last.

10,000 subscribers

We are very excited to announce that Hello World now has more than 10,000 subscribers!

Banner to celebrate 10000 subscribers

We’re celebrating this milestone, but we’d love to reach even more computing and digital making educators. Help us to spread the word to teachers, volunteers and home educators in the UK.

Get involved

Share your teaching experiences in computing and related subjects with Hello World, and help us to help other educators! When you air your questions and challenges on our letters page, other educators are ready to help you. Drop us an email to submit letters, articles, lesson plans, and questions for our FAQ pages – wherever you are in the world, get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

The post Hello World Issue 3: Approaching Assessment appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Sean’s DIY Bitcoin Lottery with a Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/seans-diy-bitcoin-lottery/

After several explorations into the world of 3D printing, and fresh off the back of his $5 fidget spinner crowd funding campaign, Sean Hodgins brings us his latest project: a DIY Bitcoin Lottery!

DIY Bitcoin Lottery with a Raspberry Pi

Build your own lottery! Thingiverse Files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2494568 Pi How-to: http://www.idlehandsproject.com/raspberry-pi-bitcoin-lottery/ Instructables: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Bitcoin-Lottery-With-Raspberry-Pi/ Send me bitcoins if you want!

What is Bitcoin mining?

According to the internet, Bitcoin mining is:

[A] record-keeping service. Miners keep the blockchain consistent, complete, and unalterable by repeatedly verifying and collecting newly broadcast transactions into a new group of transactions called a block. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, using the SHA-256 hashing algorithm, which links it to the previous block, thus giving the blockchain its name.

If that makes no sense to you, welcome to the club. So here’s a handy video which explains it better.

What is Bitcoin Mining?

For more information: https://www.bitcoinmining.com and https://www.weusecoins.com What is Bitcoin Mining? Have you ever wondered how Bitcoin is generated? This short video is an animated introduction to Bitcoin Mining. Credits: Voice – Chris Rice (www.ricevoice.com) Motion Graphics – Fabian Rühle (www.fabianruehle.de) Music/Sound Design – Christian Barth (www.akkord-arbeiter.de) Andrew Mottl (www.andrewmottl.com)

Okay, now I get it.

I swear.

Sean’s Bitcoin Lottery

As a retired Bitcoin miner, Sean understands how the system works and what is required for mining. And since news sources report that Bitcoin is currently valued at around $4000, Sean decided to use a Raspberry Pi to bring to life an idea he’d been thinking about for a little while.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

He fitted the Raspberry Pi into a 3D-printed body, together with a small fan, a strip of NeoPixels, and a Block Eruptor ASIC which is the dedicated mining hardware. The Pi runs a Python script compatible with CGMiner, a mining software that needs far more explanation than I can offer in this short blog post.

The Neopixels take the first 6 characters of the 64-character-long number of the current block, and interpret it as a hex colour code. In this way, the block’s data is converted into colour, which, when you think about it, is kind of beautiful.

The device moves on to trying to solve a new block every 20 minutes. When it does, the NeoPixel LEDs play a flashing ‘Win’ or ‘Lose’ animation to let you know whether you were the one to solve the previous block.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

Lottery results

Sean has done the maths to calculate the power consumption of the device. He says that the annual cost of running his Bitcoin Lottery is roughly what you would pay for two lottery scratch cards. Now, the odds of solving a block are much lower than those of buying a winning scratch card. However, since the mining device moves on to a new block every 20 minutes, the odds of being a winner with Bitcoin using Sean’s build are actually better than those of winning the lottery.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery


But even if you don’t win, Sean’s project is a fun experiment in Bitcoin mining and creating colour through code. And if you want to make your own, you can download the 3D-files here, find the code here, and view the step-by-step guide here on Instructables.

Good luck and happy mining!

The post Sean’s DIY Bitcoin Lottery with a Raspberry Pi appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

AWS Cost Explorer Update – Better Filtering & Grouping, Report Management, RI Reports

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-cost-explorer-update-better-filtering-grouping-report-management-ri-reports/

Our customers use Cost Explorer to better understand and manage their AWS spending, making heavy use of the reporting, analytics, and visualization tools that it provides. We launched Cost Explorer in 2014 with a focus on simplicity – single click signup, preconfigured default views, and a clean user interface (take a look back at The New AWS Cost Explorer to see where we started). The Cost Explorer has been very popular and we’ve received a lot of great feedback from our customers.

Last week we launched a major upgrade to Cost Explorer. We’ve redesigned the user interface to optimize many common workflows including filtering, report management, selection of date ranges, and grouping of data. We have also included some default reports to make it easier for you to explore the costs related to your use of Reserved Instances.

Looking at Cost Explorer
Since pictures are reportedly worth 1000 words, let’s take a closer look! Cost Explorer is part of the Billing Dashboard so I can start there:

Here’s the Billing Dashboard. I click on Cost Explorer to move ahead:

I can open up Cost Explorer or access one of three preconfigured views. I’ll go for the first option:

The default report shows my EC2 costs and usage (running hours) for the past 3 months:

I can use the Group By menu to break the costs down by EC2 instance type:

I have many other grouping options:

The filtering options are now easier to access and to edit. Here’s the full set:

I can explore my EC2 costs in any set of desired regions:

I can filter and then group by instance type to see how my spending breaks down:

I can click on Download CSV and then process the data locally:

I can also exclude certain instance types from the report. Here’s how I exclude my m4.xlarge, t2.micro, and t2.nano usage:

Report Management
Cost Explorer allows me to customize my existing reports and to create new reports from scratch. I can click on Save As to save my customized report with a new name:

I can see and manage all of my reports on the Saved Reports page (The padlock denotes a default report that cannot be edited and then overwritten):

When I click on New report I can start from a template:

After I click on Create Report, I set up my date range and filters as desired, and click on Save As. I created a report that displays my year-to-date usage of several AWS database services (Amazon Redshift, DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX), Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), and AWS Database Migration Service):

All of my reports are accessible from the Reports menu so I can check on my costs with a click:

We also simplified the process of selecting a range of dates for a report, including options to select common date ranges:

Reserved Instance Reports
Cost Explorer also includes a pair of reports that will help you to understand and optimize your usage of Reserved Instances. I don’t own an RI’s so I used screen shots supplied by the team.

The RI Utilization report allows you to see how much of your purchased RI capacity is being put to use (the dashed red line represents a utilization target that you can specify):

The RI Coverage report tells you how much of your EC2 usage is being handled by Reserved Instances (this time, the dashed red line represents the desired amount of coverage):

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the updated Cost Explorer. It is available now and you can start using it today!


Raspbian Stretch has arrived for Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Simon Long original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspbian-stretch/

It’s now just under two years since we released the Jessie version of Raspbian. Those of you who know that Debian run their releases on a two-year cycle will therefore have been wondering when we might be releasing the next version, codenamed Stretch. Well, wonder no longer – Raspbian Stretch is available for download today!

Disney Pixar Toy Story Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Debian releases are named after characters from Disney Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy. In case, like me, you were wondering: Stretch is a purple octopus from Toy Story 3. Hi, Stretch!

The differences between Jessie and Stretch are mostly under-the-hood optimisations, and you really shouldn’t notice any differences in day-to-day use of the desktop and applications. (If you’re really interested, the technical details are in the Debian release notes here.)

However, we’ve made a few small changes to our image that are worth mentioning.

New versions of applications

Version 3.0.1 of Sonic Pi is included – this includes a lot of new functionality in terms of input/output. See the Sonic Pi release notes for more details of exactly what has changed.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

The Chromium web browser has been updated to version 60, the most recent stable release. This offers improved memory usage and more efficient code, so you may notice it running slightly faster than before. The visual appearance has also been changed very slightly.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Bluetooth audio

In Jessie, we used PulseAudio to provide support for audio over Bluetooth, but integrating this with the ALSA architecture used for other audio sources was clumsy. For Stretch, we are using the bluez-alsa package to make Bluetooth audio work with ALSA itself. PulseAudio is therefore no longer installed by default, and the volume plugin on the taskbar will no longer start and stop PulseAudio. From a user point of view, everything should still work exactly as before – the only change is that if you still wish to use PulseAudio for some other reason, you will need to install it yourself.

Better handling of other usernames

The default user account in Raspbian has always been called ‘pi’, and a lot of the desktop applications assume that this is the current user. This has been changed for Stretch, so now applications like Raspberry Pi Configuration no longer assume this to be the case. This means, for example, that the option to automatically log in as the ‘pi’ user will now automatically log in with the name of the current user instead.

One other change is how sudo is handled. By default, the ‘pi’ user is set up with passwordless sudo access. We are no longer assuming this to be the case, so now desktop applications which require sudo access will prompt for the password rather than simply failing to work if a user without passwordless sudo uses them.

Scratch 2 SenseHAT extension

In the last Jessie release, we added the offline version of Scratch 2. While Scratch 2 itself hasn’t changed for this release, we have added a new extension to allow the SenseHAT to be used with Scratch 2. Look under ‘More Blocks’ and choose ‘Add an Extension’ to load the extension.

This works with either a physical SenseHAT or with the SenseHAT emulator. If a SenseHAT is connected, the extension will control that in preference to the emulator.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Fix for Broadpwn exploit

A couple of months ago, a vulnerability was discovered in the firmware of the BCM43xx wireless chipset which is used on Pi 3 and Pi Zero W; this potentially allows an attacker to take over the chip and execute code on it. The Stretch release includes a patch that addresses this vulnerability.

There is also the usual set of minor bug fixes and UI improvements – I’ll leave you to spot those!

How to get Raspbian Stretch

As this is a major version upgrade, we recommend using a clean image; these are available from the Downloads page on our site as usual.

Upgrading an existing Jessie image is possible, but is not guaranteed to work in every circumstance. If you wish to try upgrading a Jessie image to Stretch, we strongly recommend taking a backup first – we can accept no responsibility for loss of data from a failed update.

To upgrade, first modify the files /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/apt/sources.list.d/raspi.list. In both files, change every occurrence of the word ‘jessie’ to ‘stretch’. (Both files will require sudo to edit.)

Then open a terminal window and execute

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y dist-upgrade

Answer ‘yes’ to any prompts. There may also be a point at which the install pauses while a page of information is shown on the screen – hold the ‘space’ key to scroll through all of this and then hit ‘q’ to continue.

Finally, if you are not using PulseAudio for anything other than Bluetooth audio, remove it from the image by entering

sudo apt-get -y purge pulseaudio*

The post Raspbian Stretch has arrived for Raspberry Pi appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

What’s the Diff: Programs, Processes, and Threads

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/whats-the-diff-programs-processes-and-threads/

let's talk about Threads

How often have you heard the term threading in relation to a computer program, but you weren’t exactly sure what it meant? How about processes? You likely understand that a thread is somehow closely related to a program and a process, but if you’re not a computer science major, maybe that’s as far as your understanding goes.

Knowing what these terms mean is absolutely essential if you are a programmer, but an understanding of them also can be useful to the average computer user. Being able to look at and understand the Activity Monitor on the Macintosh, the Task Manager on Windows, or Top on Linux can help you troubleshoot which programs are causing problems on your computer, or whether you might need to install more memory to make your system run better.

Let’s take a few minutes to delve into the world of computer programs and sort out what these terms mean. We’ll simplify and generalize some of the ideas, but the general concepts we cover should help clarify the difference between the terms.


First of all, you probably are aware that a program is the code that is stored on your computer that is intended to fulfill a certain task. There are many types of programs, including programs that help your computer function and are part of the operating system, and other programs that fulfill a particular job. These task-specific programs are also known as “applications,” and can include programs such as word processing, web browsing, or emailing a message to another computer.


Programs are typically stored on disk or in non-volatile memory in a form that can be executed by your computer. Prior to that, they are created using a programming language such as C, Lisp, Pascal, or many others using instructions that involve logic, data and device manipulation, recurrence, and user interaction. The end result is a text file of code that is compiled into binary form (1’s and 0’s) in order to run on the computer. Another type of program is called “interpreted,” and instead of being compiled in advance in order to run, is interpreted into executable code at the time it is run. Some common, typically interpreted programming languages, are Python, PHP, JavaScript, and Ruby.

The end result is the same, however, in that when a program is run, it is loaded into memory in binary form. The computer’s CPU (Central Processing Unit) understands only binary instructions, so that’s the form the program needs to be in when it runs.

Perhaps you’ve heard the programmer’s joke, “There are only 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”

Binary is the native language of computers because an electrical circuit at its basic level has two states, on or off, represented by a one or a zero. In the common numbering system we use every day, base 10, each digit position can be anything from 0 to 9. In base 2 (or binary), each position is either a 0 or a 1. (In a future blog post we might cover quantum computing, which goes beyond the concept of just 1’s and 0’s in computing.)

Decimal—Base 10 Binary—Base 2
0 0000
1 0001
2 0010
3 0011
4 0100
5 0101
6 0110
7 0111
8 1000
9 1001

How Processes Work

The program has been loaded into the computer’s memory in binary form. Now what?

An executing program needs more than just the binary code that tells the computer what to do. The program needs memory and various operating system resources that it needs in order to run. A “process” is what we call a program that has been loaded into memory along with all the resources it needs to operate. The “operating system” is the brains behind allocating all these resources, and comes in different flavors such as macOS, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Android. The OS handles the task of managing the resources needed to turn your program into a running process.

Some essential resources every process needs are registers, a program counter, and a stack. The “registers” are data holding places that are part of the computer processor (CPU). A register may hold an instruction, a storage address, or other kind of data needed by the process. The “program counter,” also called the “instruction pointer,” keeps track of where a computer is in its program sequence. The “stack” is a data structure that stores information about the active subroutines of a computer program and is used as scratch space for the process. It is distinguished from dynamically allocated memory for the process that is known as “the heap.”

diagram of how processes work

There can be multiple instances of a single program, and each instance of that running program is a process. Each process has a separate memory address space, which means that a process runs independently and is isolated from other processes. It cannot directly access shared data in other processes. Switching from one process to another requires some time (relatively) for saving and loading registers, memory maps, and other resources.

This independence of processes is valuable because the operating system tries its best to isolate processes so that a problem with one process doesn’t corrupt or cause havoc with another process. You’ve undoubtedly run into the situation in which one application on your computer freezes or has a problem and you’ve been able to quit that program without affecting others.

How Threads Work

So, are you still with us? We finally made it to threads!

A thread is the unit of execution within a process. A process can have anywhere from just one thread to many threads.

Process vs. Thread

diagram of threads in a process over time

When a process starts, it is assigned memory and resources. Each thread in the process shares that memory and resources. In single-threaded processes, the process contains one thread. The process and the thread are one and the same, and there is only one thing happening.

In multithreaded processes, the process contains more than one thread, and the process is accomplishing a number of things at the same time (technically, it’s almost at the same time—read more on that in the “What about Parallelism and Concurrency?” section below).

diagram of single and multi-treaded process

We talked about the two types of memory available to a process or a thread, the stack and the heap. It is important to distinguish between these two types of process memory because each thread will have its own stack, but all the threads in a process will share the heap.

Threads are sometimes called lightweight processes because they have their own stack but can access shared data. Because threads share the same address space as the process and other threads within the process, the operational cost of communication between the threads is low, which is an advantage. The disadvantage is that a problem with one thread in a process will certainly affect other threads and the viability of the process itself.

Threads vs. Processes

So to review:

  1. The program starts out as a text file of programming code,
  2. The program is compiled or interpreted into binary form,
  3. The program is loaded into memory,
  4. The program becomes one or more running processes.
  5. Processes are typically independent of each other,
  6. While threads exist as the subset of a process.
  7. Threads can communicate with each other more easily than processes can,
  8. But threads are more vulnerable to problems caused by other threads in the same process.

Processes vs. Threads — Advantages and Disadvantages

Process Thread
Processes are heavyweight operations Threads are lighter weight operations
Each process has its own memory space Threads use the memory of the process they belong to
Inter-process communication is slow as processes have different memory addresses Inter-thread communication can be faster than inter-process communication because threads of the same process share memory with the process they belong to
Context switching between processes is more expensive Context switching between threads of the same process is less expensive
Processes don’t share memory with other processes Threads share memory with other threads of the same process

What about Concurrency and Parallelism?

A question you might ask is whether processes or threads can run at the same time. The answer is: it depends. On a system with multiple processors or CPU cores (as is common with modern processors), multiple processes or threads can be executed in parallel. On a single processor, though, it is not possible to have processes or threads truly executing at the same time. In this case, the CPU is shared among running processes or threads using a process scheduling algorithm that divides the CPU’s time and yields the illusion of parallel execution. The time given to each task is called a “time slice.” The switching back and forth between tasks happens so fast it is usually not perceptible. The terms parallelism (true operation at the same time) and concurrency (simulated operation at the same time), distinguish between the two type of real or approximate simultaneous operation.

diagram of concurrency and parallelism

Why Choose Process over Thread, or Thread over Process?

So, how would a programmer choose between a process and a thread when creating a program in which she wants to execute multiple tasks at the same time? We’ve covered some of the differences above, but let’s look at a real world example with a program that many of us use, Google Chrome.

When Google was designing the Chrome browser, they needed to decide how to handle the many different tasks that needed computer, communications, and network resources at the same time. Each browser window or tab communicates with multiple servers on the internet to retrieve text, programs, graphics, audio, video, and other resources, and renders that data for display and interaction with the user. In addition, the browser can open many windows, each with many tasks.

Google had to decide how to handle that separation of tasks. They chose to run each browser window in Chrome as a separate process rather than a thread or many threads, as is common with other browsers. Doing that brought Google a number of benefits. Running each window as a process protects the overall application from bugs and glitches in the rendering engine and restricts access from each rendering engine process to others and to the rest of the system. Isolating JavaScript programs in a process prevents them from running away with too much CPU time and memory, and making the entire browser non-responsive.

Google made the calculated trade-off with a multi-processing design as starting a new process for each browser window has a higher fixed cost in memory and resources than using threads. They were betting that their approach would end up with less memory bloat overall.

Using processes instead of threads provides better memory usage when memory gets low. An inactive window is treated as a lower priority by the operating system and becomes eligible to be swapped to disk when memory is needed for other processes, helping to keep the user-visible windows more responsive. If the windows were threaded, it would be more difficult to separate the used and unused memory as cleanly, wasting both memory and performance.

You can read more about Google’s design decisions on Google’s Chromium Blog or on the Chrome Introduction Comic.

The screen capture below shows the Google Chrome processes running on a MacBook Air with many tabs open. Some Chrome processes are using a fair amount of CPU time and resources, and some are using very little. You can see that each process also has many threads running as well.

activity monitor of Google Chrome

The Activity Monitor or Task Manager on your system can be a valuable ally in helping fine-tune your computer or troubleshooting problems. If your computer is running slowly, or a program or browser window isn’t responding for a while, you can check its status using the system monitor. Sometimes you’ll see a process marked as “Not Responding.” Try quitting that process and see if your system runs better. If an application is a memory hog, you might consider choosing a different application that will accomplish the same task.

Windows Task Manager view

Made it This Far?

We hope this Tron-like dive into the fascinating world of computer programs, processes, and threads has helped clear up some questions you might have had.

The next time your computer is running slowly or an application is acting up, you know your assignment. Fire up the system monitor and take a look under the hood to see what’s going on. You’re in charge now.

We love to hear from you

Are you still confused? Have questions? If so, please let us know in the comments. And feel free to suggest topics for future blog posts.

The post What’s the Diff: Programs, Processes, and Threads appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.