Breaking DNS and Putting it Together Again (ish)

Last Sunday I read an article in Wired Magazine about Dan Kaminsky who had discovered a flaw with one of the basic fundamentals of the Internet, the Domain Name System.

The experts watched as Kaminsky opened his laptop and connected the overhead projector. He had created a “weaponized” version of his attack on this vulnerability to demonstrate its power. A mass of data flashed onscreen and told the story. In less than 10 seconds, Kaminsky had compromised a server running BIND 9, Vixie’s DNS routing software, which controls 80 percent of Internet traffic. It was undeniable proof that Kaminsky had the power to take down large swaths of the Internet. 

To be honest, the Internet dodged a bullet with this one. Had this been discovered with someone with less moral character, there would have been a very very bad day for the world. Then again, we currently only patched the hole; Bought some time.

Secret Geek A-Team Hacks Back, Defends Worldwide Web

Your Video Game System Knowledge

Here’s a online test that Kotaku posted today that really got my brain going:

Can You Name the Video Game Systems (Released in the U.S.)?

As someone who studies video game history, the test really kicked my ass. Under the cut (or huge spoiler line) are my analysis of my results, but a few tips. The auto-correction is very good and will take most acronyms as well as the official titles. So if it’s not firing off as correct, you are either wrong or need to be more specific. “Sega” alone doesn’t cut it. For reference, I got 25/68 and kicking my self for forgetting three of them.


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IP Rights in Academics

This week, Gamasutra sparked up the debate of IP rights with students in interactive media programs. The article “Controversy In The Classroom: Whose IP Is It Anyway?” starts the debate, but as you can see from the comments there is much more that needs to be discussed. In the Gamasutra article, the statement from the president and co-founder of DigiPen in Washington, Claude Comair:

“We are not here to compete with the games industry,” he says. “We are not here for people to come and make a game in a less-expensive manner utilizing equipment and software that has student licenses.”

“Just as importantly, we are not equipped to properly firewall our projects in the sense that we really don’t know legally speaking how many or which students created which games. We don’t know whether they received input from other students who have not been credited.”

This statement really rubbed me the wrong way on a few levels. The academic institution is skipping an extremely teachable moment by not incorporating IP rights and attribution of work. Will mistakes be made? Very much so. This is an educational institution and mistakes are part of the learning process. Avoiding the issue doesn’t make the issue go away, only defred for the student post-graduation. I can’t see how a student can be prepared to work in a field of intellectual property without understanding the basic law and practice of IP.

The counterpoint is the position is schools should teach the use and practice of tools and the IP should be left for law students. While I’m not claiming that each student should be prepared for entering a pre-law program, IP practice is the core integral part of being a professional artist. You don’t have to fully agree with the practices, but knowing the basics of how business is conducted seperates the professionals from the hobbyists. By denying students how to run the business, DigiPen seems limit student’s ability to become involved with being their own independent participants of this art form. The DigiPen curriculum seems to make worker bees for the game industry, rather than practicianers of interactive entertainment.

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Happy 15th Birthday, Myst!

Fifteen years ago today, Myst was released. It’s been a wild ride since!

Myst Island

While there are a small assortment of titles I can point to, the largest influence in my career as a game developer and artist is Myst. Now that I am employed as a developer at Telltale Games, I wish Cyan Worlds a happy 15th anniversary of their landmark title. Thank you for all of your quality work through the years and inspiring me as an artist.

Mini History Lesson

While 7th Guest was released prior to Myst, 7th Guest was highly restricted due to adult content. I remember purchasing a Packard Bell which included 7th Guest, but wrapped in paper marked “ADULTS ONLY” before revealing what was inside. Myst on the other hand was all ages in the sense that any age can enjoy the title, not dumbed down for children nor exclusive to adults.

Myst really was the killer app for optical disks for data. While there were certainly CD-ROMs prior, they were mostly storing large amounts of data and the occasional postage stamp of video and audio.ยน Or (as the case of 7th Guest) restrictive in target audience. Myst was the first widely distributed entertainment product that fully utilized the space to make an enriched experience not emulated on other media.

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How do we honor our pioneers?

A few nights ago I had a rather morbid dream. In the dream, Shigeru Miyamoto had passed away.

Before I continue, I want to make extremely clear that I do not wish anything bad to Shigeru San. As you’ll read, this is a platform for me to talk about a larger context with a theoretical concept using him as a test case.

In the dream, I was an upper management of a video game history museum (a concept I covered before) which was prepared in the sense of being able to act quickly when a high-profile designer passes away. First there was a press conference, having timing it for after Nintendo of America made their statement. I was presenting the main statement by quickly reviewing the many accomplishments Miyamoto had done in his life time. While he is one of Japan’s greatest sons, he really is one of humanities’ greatest assets. This was followed by the museum having a memorial service and special visitations. A monument at the museum, already erected in his honor with a prior event, would become the focus point for visitors to pay their respects. The museum itself would be open, but in order to provide the context of Miyamoto’s work the admission would be waived for two days. In addition, three days there will be someone standing watch over the monument and public visitation at any time.

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Back from PAX

PAX was a very wonderful time! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves games of any sort. PAX is a very different tone of conference. Specifically for gamers; Not tacked on to a larger conference of other forms of media, nor a professionals only club. This is very significant in focus. I’ve been to a few comic book conferences that tack on TV and sometimes games, but putting interactive entertainment in the forefront puts a unique spin on things. I felt apart of the experience, not a step-child to the family. Moreover, the non-professional focus removes the edge of trying to impress. This is a celebration of the art form.

My background in the entertainment business is in performing art; Theatre. Creating art directly in front of a live audience give the instant feedback of an audience. With interactive entertainment, there are no opening nights. No red carpet screenings. A file is uploaded to a server, a variable switched, and eventually some people roll in with comments on forums. While I certainly welcome and value the feedback on any form and appreciate our world-wide release in an instant, I still long for the face to face interaction with the audience. These conventions are the few places where I can get that interaction.

Most of the setbacks about the conference are do to my lack of planning. This trip was very last moment for me and I will never do again. While I very much appreciated the hospitality I was given, I will only do PAX again while staying at a hotel within walking distance. I missed out on a lot of things as I carried my day’s worth of stuff and tied to the Seattle bus system. PAX runs till 2am, but the last bus is at 1am. Not to mention being able to drop stuff off at the hotel and change would have helped a lot. And while I had a few friends on site, they were not as available to enjoy the conference with. Rob from Orange Lounge Radio was working as a media contact, and Kate had her own things going most of the time. I did get to spend some time with them at the conference, and found others as the weekend progressed, but more would be more.

The big conference-only complaint I have was crowd management. I felt there were lines for something that shouldn’t be a line, and other high-profile events that should have been managed better. The biggest culprit was the line to get into the expo. Attendees are encouraged to wait in line for the 10am opening of the expo floor. Not an event such as a keynote or performance, just the expo floor. The reason? Armbands for the 8pm concert. Frankly, I can’t understand the logic of having people show up early to an all-day event. I’d rather they encourage people going for the expo floor to show up starting shortly before 10am. And the evening’s concert you want the armband? You can get in without them without problem, negating the need to line up for the expo. This is getting worked on, but it was a confusing decision in the first place.

I’ll be writing some specific things about the conference in the next few days. Right now I needed to get out the overview and acknowledge I attend and arrived home safely. You can also take a look at the photos I took while there. Here’s a sample:

Strong Sad and Artist
MC Frontalot @ PAX
PAX Pass Kit

Where have I Gone?

So.. it’s been a while since a real post. Quite a few reasons for that which I will quickly outline in order to pad this post.

1) I moved!

I went from living in the North Bay where I was close to work but very far away from civilization, to living in the East Bay. Here the commute to work is longer by 10 minutes, but it’s a trafic-less ride. My place is also much bigger and accommodating to guests, not to mention actually on public transportation.

2) Vacation!

Finally took a vacation after 15 months working. Traveled back to Boston and NYC to hang out with friends in both areas. While my lappy broke on vacation, I was still able to hit the reset button for myself and come back fresh.

3) My Lappy Broke

My PowerBook G4 Laptop bit the dust and is out of warranty. While I still have my two desktops, I’m not able to remotely write on the thing. For the interested, I’m getting the ‘bad RAM’ post error where the laptop beeps three short beeps when attempting to turn on.

I have been in the market for a new laptop as I need to get on the x86 Mac bandwagon, but was waiting for the next revisions of laptops to come out. Luckily the rumor mills seem to point to a laptop update in 3-5 weeks from now. When they do come out, I’ll be deciding between the newest hottness or a refurbished which will be much cheaper.

4) Releases!

On Monday, we will be releasing the first episode of Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People for both Windows and WiiWare. It’s totally awesome and will be a great relief to finally start the season.

Still getting a bit settled in the new place. Once I do I’ll be posting much more. Got a few topics I’ve been simmering about for a while and want to share sometime soon.

Publishing Public Interactive Media

Decided to bring up the ‘Corporation of Public Gaming’ concept I first introduced in February. This time I want to cover a little more directly what I feel such a concept would be. First, I’ve decided to try out a new name for the concept: The Corporation for Public Media (CPM). I don’t want to limit to video games alone with this organization as the Internet at large should be included with this endeavor.

Before I continue, here’s a little review of recent weeks of highly publicized public gaming projects and research grants.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced the first round of recipients in their Health Games Research Project. Over $2 million to various institutions focusing on using video games for public health research. Some of these projects are research-only projects while others are focused on games for public consumption. For you NPR listeners, you may have heard their sponsorship announced for the past few months.

At Games for Change conference in NYC, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her collaboration with Arizona State University with a game called Our Courts. It’s a piece that addresses the lack of knowledge of the American judicial system.

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