Smithsonian Magazine reviews a free smartphone app called Flyover Country that makes it more fun to be in the window seat. No Wi-Fi needed.
Flyover Country uses maps and data from various geological and paleontological databases to identify and give information on the landscape passing beneath a plane. The user will see features tagged on a map corresponding to the ground below. To explain the features in depth, the app relies on cached Wikipedia articles. Since it works solely with a phone’s GPS, there’s no need for a user to purchase in-flight wifi. Sitting in your window seat, you can peer down on natural features like glaciers and man-made features, such as mines, and read Wikipedia articles about them at the same time. If you're flying over an area where dinosaur bones have been discovered, you can read about that too. Curious about why the river below you bends the way it does? The app will tell you that as well.
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It's a shame that this Minecraft comic never happened. The art looks fantastic. Brandon Sheffield, video game director and webcomic writer, has sample character designs, screens, and a script on his website.
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The BBC reports on China's use of a "digital camo"
—a pixelated look believed to offer superior concealment than traditional patterns—so exaggerated it resembles the video game Minecraft. (The United States deployed a less aggressive digital camo
, but is phasing it out.
) Read the rest
See sample pages from this book at Wink.
Shaped like a hexagon to mimic the dimensions of a cube, Minecraft: Blockopedia is designed for full-on Minecraft geeks, although those of us who have only watched the game over the shoulders of children and loved ones will find plenty to admire here too. After the briefest of introductions and a quick glossary to help noobs make sense of the stats that accompany each block’s name, it’s off to the races, with page after page devoted to blocks made from rocks, blocks made from plants, blocks that serve particular functions (a ladder), and blocks that do particular things (acting as a switch).
One of the coolest characteristics about Minecraft is how it chooses to observe the laws of nature and physics, or ignore them. Sand, we are told, can be a cave-in hazard, but when it’s smelted in a furnace, it turns to glass. Both statements are true, but don’t go looking for glowstone the next time you’re spelunking – it is only found in a sinister dimension of Minecraft called the Nether. And while sugar cane in both the real world and the Overworld of Minecraft can be used to make sugar, guess where it can also be used to block flowing lava?
Though the format and illustrations in Minecraft: Blockopedia are the book’s most prominent features, it’s still a book filled with lots and lots of, you know, words. Writer Alex Wiltshire mostly plays it straight (“Water is incredibly useful.”), but often he lets the language and logic of Minecraft add color, as in “Sticky pistons are made by crafting a piston with a slimeball…” and “If you dig podzol without the silk touch enhancement it drops dirt.” Got that? Read the rest
Minecraft's combat system always reflected its simplicity, and basically amounted to clicking things until they died. It's just been overhauled with a game update centered entirely on combat
. Ideas that seem simple become more challenging when you have to account for lag. Read the rest
Who doesn’t like playing games? If your high school and college educations had been all playtime instead of studying, you probably would’ve liked it all a lot more. Well, even though you’re all grown up now, the child in you is going to rejoice that you can learn electronics and engineering using the fun of Minecraft, now for 18% off. Make learning awesome again with this hands-on, interactive way to master these essential computing skills.
Level by level, the game play here will walk you through the rungs of building a computer from scratch. You’ll get to tinker with buzzers, motion sensors, LED lights, switches and more and connecting these hardware pieces will bring you steps closer to the Raspberry Pi. From there you’ll build a totally self-contained computer that runs on a Raspberry Pi project board. All the hardware challenges can be played as Minecraft game levels, making it super fun to build at every stage. For extra levels and more sharing opportunities, simply connect to WiFi.
Knowing how to build systems like this can really amp up your career potential. Use this excuse to play games for hours on end because you can pretty much call it work or school, ramping up your engineering and electronics prowess. Playing Minecraft has never been so productive and now it’s all 18% off. Check out the link below for more details on how you can level up to a Raspberry Pi master.
Take 18% Off the Piper Kit in the Boing Boing Store. Read the rest
Microsoft plans to turn Minecraft into a test suite for artificial intelligence research
, reports the BBC. As a simplified but all-encompassing model of the world, it's perfect for tutoring 'bots.
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…Microsoft suggests the open-ended nature of Minecraft makes it particularly useful because of the huge variety of situations it can simulate from first-person perspectives.
"It allows you to have 'embodied AI'," explained Matthew Johnson, the principal software engineer working on AIX.
"So, rather than have a situation where the AI sees an avatar of itself, it can actually be inside, looking out through the eyes of something that is living in the world.
"We think this is an essential part of building this kind of general intelligence."
Simon writes, "With just 3 days to run, this Kickstarter to make 'Beep Beep Yarr!' a fantastic, pirate-themed programming book for kids needs your support to graduate."
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Confession: I know nothing – NOTHING – about coding. I’m still stuck in the glory days of the “if/thens” of my original Apple IIe, circa 1983. And I barely knew how to do anything past whatever I copied verbatim from Byte. I never got that right either. I don’t think. Ever. I remember staying up all night to do a Thundercats hi-res game. Tried to run it at 4am. Nothing. No Lion-O, no Cheetarah, no Snarf... NOTHING. Thus began a life of failure. BUT. I did not want my kids to suffer that same fate. Especially because it is now a presidential mandate that all kids must learn to code. And code they shall.
Kano is built on a simple idea: If kids can piece together Legos, then why not a whole computer? So they not only have a tactile experience in the building of the thing, but more importantly, they take ownership. Have a hands on experiece with their computer, and know it inside and out. My kids opened the cleverly packaged Kano box and had their machines up and running in about 45 minutes. The directions are sort of similar to Lego directions. Very simple, very easy to understand, and I’ll be damned... these boys, ages 7 and 9, were coding within the hour.
The computer itself comes with a Rasberry Pi brain, all the necessary cables, a keyboard, instructions and stickers to personalize the experience. It comes loaded with a bunch of different apps: Minecraft, Scratch, hack old school Pong, hack Snake, and many other great things, all with an eye towards hacking, coding and exploring. Read the rest
ScratchJr is a simple, free, tablet based programming language kids can use to make simple games and animations. The Official ScratchJr Book has been a great guide for my daughter and I.
I first heard about Scratch, when one of our attendees gave a brief show-and-tell on it at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder. It sounded pretty accessible. It came to mind again when recently, in an attempt to get my daughter to use the iPad for more than watching Bratayley, I decided to try and interest her in creating something. She loves art, but Minecraft was far too confusing for her and I was looking for another kid-friendly programming option. ScratchJr is a tablet based, even simpler version of Scratch, installing was as easy as any other app.
The Official ScratchJr Book does a great job, with friendly illustrations, of walking us through the basics. My daughter prefers the painting and drawing of characters, and backgrounds, to the organization of blocks, but the book did a great job of walking us through it all. Having gone through the book together, once, she can now refer to it one her own, if she runs into a problem. Generally, her problem is me grabbing the tablet and adding things.
I am not going to tell you we've made high art, but I think I could throw together a decent 1980's King's Quest parody.
The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code via Amazon Read the rest
In this beginner friendly book, called Learn to Program with Minecraft, you will learn how to do cool things in Minecraft using the Python programming language. No prior programming experience is needed. Author Craig Richardson shows you how to install Python (it's free) on your Mac, PC, or Raspberry Pi. The book has step-by-step instructions to show you how to teleport your character, create palaces and other structures with a few lines of code, stack blocks, duplicate villages and geography, and a lot more.
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The Website Obesity Crisis, Maciej Ceglowski's (previously) Web Directions talk, documents the worsening epidemic of web-site bloat, and dissects the causes.
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Every other week, it seems, an exciting new discovery crops up in a distant star system. The latest is Wolf 1061c, the closest Earth-like world yet found, barely a probe's throw away at 14 light years. But this got me thinking: which is the least interesting exoplanet yet discovered?
To my inexpert eye, OGLE 2005 BLG-390Lb looks like a terrifically boring world. Though it was scientifically interesting early in the exoplanetary race due to its tiny size and vast distance from Planet Earth, this merely makes it the Rand Paul of planets.
It's at least 18,000 light years away, so we're not getting there until we can reach billions of other, more interesting worlds. And when someone does get there, they'll find what appears to be rocky blob well out of its star's habitable zone.
It's covered in abundant elements such as ammonia and nitrogen, all frozen solid because it's so cold. Its star is believed to be a red dwarf, which is to say, very boring in its own right.
"I wish I'd had a chance to visit OGLE 2005 BLG-390Lb," no-one will ever say.
But I could, of course, be completely wrong. I'm not an astronomer, after all. Tell us in the comments which exoplanet you are most bored by!
Previously: Extremely mundane places in Minecraft. Read the rest
Earlier this fall, Pew released the results of a new survey
documenting how digital networks are key to how teens connect with friends. What was most striking was the gender disparity. Girls socialize via text and social media, and boys tend to connect with friends through video games.
It's that time of year again! Welcome to Boing Boing's 2015 Gift Guide, where you'll find toys, books, gadgets and many other splendid ideas to humor and harry your friends and family! Scroll down and buy things, mutants!