Linux Conference Australia 2016

I’ve had an amazing time being on the organizing team for Linux Conference Australia 2016 in Geelong.

Organizers

While I am processing all the wonderful things that have happened, I’d like to share the things I have already made. For photography, I have a selection of photos for each day, as well as a collection of timelapses and edited videos made for the event. It is a great place to try new things, everyone is encouraging.

Continue reading Linux Conference Australia 2016

PAX turns itself upside down in Australia

The following is a writeup about the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), arguably the world’s largest get together of gamers that turns its focus inward. Unlike E3 which is primarily for the media or Respawn which is for the LAN gaming community, PAX puts the focus on the gamer. Our culture, what we like, and how we do it. I was sent in there with Ragnorok for Gamestah to give coverage, photos and interviews during it.

I went into PAX unprepared. Far from not knowing what was on the schedule – I knew Riot were going to have a large presence, popular Australian podcasts and TV shows like good game and game arena were doing things there. Occulus rift in various forms. Nintendo to have Pokemon championships, with the winner going overseas. This is Australia’s new chance to have a community of gamers have their voices be heard.

What I was not ready for, was how uplifting the whole experience would be, in many ways.

Gamestah's Ragnorok and SuperRoach near the end of PAX Australia

Read on for more information as well as a collection of images from the event.

Continue reading PAX turns itself upside down in Australia

Table Topics Evaluator – What to look out for

The following is about a position in Toastmasters called the Table Topics Evaluator. In it, a person will ask usually four to five people questions, and they will need to present a 60-90 Second speech about it on the spot. An evaluator will be listening and taking notes about how well they done. While it is specifically about the position, the notes could be applied to almost any interactions with people to gauge interest.

I’ve collected some notes of things that I was using to look for while recently in the role of Table Topics Evaluator. This position requires me to listen attentively to someone giving a short speech, with not long to actually write down notes – After each person has spoken the only break is for the Table Topics Master (The person asking the topics/questions) to ask the next question.

Once the questions and speeches are completed, I needed to get up straight away and give my evaluations – It’s a true test of my poor hand writing.

To help me, I have collected and written down observations to keep an eye out for, which could be helpful for you as well.

Evaluator notes

Speaking Position

  • Did they move their chair back, stand behind it?
  • Don’t be afraid to take the time to be comfortable
  • Confident, good use of moment to draw us in. More time on the question? Good use of story.

Gestures

  • Did they use their hands to support what they were talking about
  • Holding hands – did they show nervousness by holding their hands together the whole time?

Good use of funny gestures. Slow down so we can take them in.

Structure

  • Beginning, end and middle. Did they wrap it up? Multiple points or one?

J. Doe told a story, and tied it all together at the end. The ending felt a bit rushed bit time had ran out at that point.

Eye Contact

  • Was their eye contact amongst the crowd?
  • Did they look at the ground frequently?
  • Was it appropriate for the topic? (Slow = serious, casual = moving around the crowd mid sentence)

With the points above, I have plenty of information and things to talk about, by remembering these few things as a leapboard to talk about how the speech went. The overall goal is to find the good things that have been done, and give them a recommendation on something to focus on. Even a speech that you may not have liked could have been very difficult for another person, which means it is important to respect anyone being put in the position to do a speech on such short notice – That’s the idea of table topics, to force you to think on your feet!

A memory is worth a thousand pictures

The following is a recording of my Tenth speech for Toastmasters, titledĀ A memory is worth a thousand pictures. It’s been in the back of my head in the previous few speeches, and it was a great relief to finally be able to practice and then finally do it.

The significance of doing ones tenth speech is that it means you have completed the manual for toastmasters called “Competent Communicator”. The title of the book undersells the set of styles of speeches in there, as it helps you build confidence in yourself as well as practice in preparing short and long form speeches.

This does not mean the end of speeches to do however – It just means I’ve leveled up! There is a new set of books, called Advanced Communicator Manuals. The variety in these books are amazing, and I will look forward to planning speeches around these styles.

Looking back on previous speeches, I have covered a lot of topics. In one of them, I made comparisons on why I would not fight a Ghurka at a Bar. Another one involved me getting the crowd interaction up by talking about a mission to mars, including using a Mars bar on a whiteboard as a visual aid. Yet another one had me talking about the Perfect Pizza that could be made, where I opened a Pandora’s Pizza Box of puns and alliterations.

It’s been fun, and recording them has been great learning for myself, and also to show friends. I also totally understand that recording your speech is not for everyone – Part of the advantage for toastmasters is that you can practice giving a speech in a friendly environment, knowing a camera is recording everything you are doing can make you very self conscious!

Kicking the Kickstarter addiction

I have a confession to make.

I am a kickstart-aholic. I check it late at night, and during lunch breaks to get my kickstart fix.

Recently it has come to my attention I am spending far too much time browsing the website called kickstarter. The short version of it is that someone will put a project up on there, and will set a goal for it to reach in order to be made or done. You pledge your amount to the project, however it will not be taken out of your bank account unless the goal is met.

If the goal does not get achieved, then the show is over for everyone, as no money will be taken from you leaving the kickstarter with nothing. This lends to a high energy atmosphere for products that are done right.

The atmosphere of this funding model lends well to things which have been planned out but would not get mainstream backing by a traditional bank or other places due to lack of perceived interest or amount of risk tied to the project.

According to my profile, I have been going a bit crazy with buying things lately. Links to above projects also after the break.

Keep reading more to see what I feel are what I’ve noticed in good and bad projects so far on kickstarter.

Continue reading Kicking the Kickstarter addiction

Raspberry Pi Case: PiBow

Raspberry Pi - PiBow Case

The Raspberry Pi is a small computer that is able to be produced for a very low cost. Although intended for mass educational and learning use, They also are a fantastic gadget to use for your own personal hacking around and learning in many different computer areas.

I’m writing this though to talk about the variety of casings that are available for it. Much like the unique situation the Raspberry Pi is in, there are plenty of fun and unique ways to have a case for it. For example, using thick paper, you can print your own case. You can even have a 3D Printed case.

I decided to try out the PiBow case, designed by Paul Beech, who also designed the Raspberry Pi logo itself.

The unique thing about this case is it can be easily sent via post, because it is arrived in layers. Like lego parts, you stack them on top of each other to build it.

Here is a video review I made of it, you can also click to read more about my impressions

Continue reading Raspberry Pi Case: PiBow

Equipment for audio interviews or – what’s in my bag?

You can tell a lot from a person with the equipment he takes with him, and how it packs it up, so on request, I thought it may be a good time to go through what kind of things I would take to an interview with a focus on the audio component of it.

Portability is a big thing to me, as I often prefer to be able to take everything with me on foot. This limits me in a few ways. I do not have the ability to use powerful lighting or other high performance gear, because I cannot assume I will be able to work in a powered setting. The advantage it brings though is a lot of components can work on battery power, and I can get into very remote or constrained areas. Used properly the location can give your interviewee a more of a relaxed tone and help in a setup where you may not have assistance with you.

First off, the backpack:
Speck aftpack, before..

My photo does not do it justice, but the product photography on their page does. It’s called a Speck Aftpack.

Read on below the fold to see what madness lies inside!

Continue reading Equipment for audio interviews or – what’s in my bag?

Your graphics card sucks at making video.

The following post is for an often run into issue regarding the use of Graphics cards to accelerate making videos and was originally intended for the XSplit forums, a program used to Broadcast yourself or games onto the internet.

As we know, XSplit is a high performance program, which in order to do it’s task needs to do many things – Capturing audio from many different sources, taking user input, streaming it all to the web.

The most intensive parts are getting the Video, as well as taking that and putting it into a usable format (encoding).

Currently XSplit can use tools such as Gamesource and DXTory in order to get the video using the other powerful part of a computer – the Graphics card aka GPU. This can help in reducing the amount of cpu use and bottle necking or frame rate drop that a computer will normally have.

At this point, it would be natural to wonder about if the encoding process itself can be sped up to further help with making XSplit have even less of an impact.

There exists many available options to do this – like programming for the CPU you have languages and specifications to make programs run on a GPU including OpenCL, GPgpu and Cuda.

Unfortunately there is something getting in the way – lies. Continue reading Your graphics card sucks at making video.

WCG Gives up pc gaming for mobile

The World Cyber Games (WCG) are known as the largest international competitive eSports company in existence have dropped a bomb shell announcing that they will be moving away from covering PC and Console games anymore.

To give an idea of how long these guys have been around, they were formed in 2000 – In business this is a while, however on the internet and especially gaming it is the venerable Gandalf the grey watching over the hobbits of Cybergamer and MLG.

In a leaked announcement, they said the following in regard about their view for the future of gaming and how it relates to them:

In recent years, the gaming and IT trends have been moving so fast. In the current status of gaming and IT industry, one of the most remarkable information to us was the mobile shipments have exceeded the PC shipments.

As wide spread mobile devices, mobile gamer would rapidly increase as well. In this situation, the major PC game publishers have been expanding their investment and business in the mobile game development & publishing.

This information was very cruel to us since we had been committed to the PC-Based gaming event for long time. We have witnessed that there have been many companies and organizations who went out of business because they didn’t put effort to change. Therefore we concluded that we should create WCG’s new identity.

Under this circumstance, we made a hard decision that we should bring the mobile, new key sector in the game industry, in our event concept. Hence, WCG decided to start the Mobile Game-Based Festival.

To create the Mobile Game-Based Festival, WCG is under the discussion with the sponsors and game publishers regarding new event structure and the countries for new festival. Therefore, there will be no longer present event module, such as Pan Championship, and PC-Based National Finals. And, the official game titles of WCG will consist of mobile games.

Bolding by me for emphasis. The move for WCG to drop gaming is a dramatic one, however should have been seen coming for a long time. The previous years WCG finals were held had a $40,000 First place prize for the mobile racing game Asphalt 6. The prize for Counter-strike was $25,000 which is $15k lower than a mobile game (have a look at the full listing on the wcg site).

Competing in a mobile game has an shallower learning curve. This is for multiple reasons, the larger ones being the catering to gaming in a shorter timespan (quick fix gaming while you are on the loo or at a lunch break) as well as the input or control to the game needs to be simplified due to the control surface also being your actual screen of your phone/gaming device. While Asphalt 6 HD is an technically amazing game, for gameplay its depth revolves around unlocking newer models of cars, and upgrading your ingame steering and engine.

This pales to greats such as even the Wipeout series on the first playstation. Besides the analogue controls giving you an advantage, actual independent buttons to press left you with micromanagement options such as juggling weapon/shield powerups, shooting behind you and various forms of braking. The simplification of game mechanics hurts the ability to refine a players technique for longer term play.

The short term of this barbaric stripping of core mobile gaming by WCG may give trouble to event organizers planning their own smaller events – WCG themselves will not be supporting them for any events, impacting sponsorship and players attending for WCG in the first place (qualifying events for WCG were often held in gaming local area events, with the winner getting invited to go to the next level and flights to the relevant place).

Sponsorship is a risky business for promoters. They need to write up paperwork and prove that the money they are giving away to events is going to give a return in the investment. A common way to do this is to show prior examples and a strong area that they are going to sponsor – showing larger events and their return is a good way to give a comparative judgement for people who may not understand gaming itself. With WCG effectively gone for pc gaming, that is both a big event you can’t use, and if they are following any news about competitive gaming, they will have noticed WCG going for mobile only.

We’ve talked about why Mobile based gaming is a bad choice for competition, but we havn’t discussed why the direction of mobile has been taken. Well, that’s simple – getting your game’s name in the media sells more copies. It’s difficult to get your game into the competitive region. It takes time, recognition and plenty of support from the developers themselves to foster a healthy community (which on a side note, DICE are messing up for Battlefield 3). Gaming companies can give the recognition an artificial kick by giving large sponsorship and prize money deals on conditions of their choice for the game. Samsung proudly show off their endorsement for Asphalt 6, they make sales and more eyeballs on the game. Win for them!

The equivalent of this would be the offering of extra XP in games by buying soft drinks in store. That’ll never happen though

In the longer term, I hope for smaller companies to pick up the slack, and take competitive games to a new level. Streaming technology which I believe is the future of gaming currently is becoming cheaper and more accessible, leaving a large market to tap into. That market however will depend on a fully supported ecosystem – gamers playing together long enough to form well disciplined teams, which then have the ability to focus on long term tournaments with eventual payoffs in their time spent to make it worthwhile. That sounds a bit like every other sport doesn’t it?

Australian competitive gaming is currently on shaky ground, and we will see if and how much this will affect it. I look forward to healthy competition to come back and bring strong communities. But first, we will need new games to bring new gamers in… While it is silly to argue graphics over gameplay (gameplay should always come first), it is harder to sell an older game for sponsorship. Besides age and graphics, there are newer ad opportunities in recent games, which will only get bigger as the streaming wild card comes in to hopefully boost gaming into a golden age.

On the other end of the stick, we don’t ask for AFL 2.0 do we? It is up to the following of a game to dictate where it will be played, and I feel its a waste for companies to turn their back on LAN based play for reliable setup (and the preservation of hair on event organizers heads) and match making outside of a casual lobby.

RIP WCG, Your may your sugar filled mobile addiction give you peace before you die of malnutrition from the people that supported you during your beginning – the gamers.

Mana Bar Melbourne opening

I got to have some fun at the Mana Bar Melbourne Opening. Had a good chance to talk to owner Yug about how he finds it.

Also, I was able to do an Interview with Lark, who were nice enough to play some Zelda tunes for me. After the fact, I realised I should have asked for some Battlefield themeage. To hear that theme with the Violin would have been amazing!

Pimping out their facebook though, they are available at

http://facebook.com/larkband

 

And the actual video interview I done with them:

http://www.gamestah.com/file/view/5137

Tech, code, cross-fingers.