Link Rot

The internet of my youth continues to bitrot into nothingness. This time it’s the (presumed) death of lspace.org – a site that was once the premier Discworld location on the web. I must have spent hours working through the annotated Pratchett files when I should have been studying for my GCSEs.

Now all it returns is…

DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN

It’s hardly an auspicious end.

Go Faster Stripes

Apparently Virgin Media has upgraded the upload on the link that this little site sits behind from 20Mb/s to 35Mb/s. That means that all none of you who actually read these entries should be able to access things a little quicker.

The rumour mill also suggests that my download will be bumped to 500Mb/s some time next week – which in theory is nice but, unlike the upload, I very rarely manage to hit the current top speed even with a wired connection.

Towards A Cleaner Mario Kart

I have a long history with Mario Kart; after Super Mario World, it was the second computer game – on any platform – that I bought. A cutting edge title, it used the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 to scale and rotate 2D graphics to generate a sudo-3D play area. It was – to my pre-teen eyes – a visually stunning game combined with fantastic gameplay.

Returning to it years later I have to wonder what I was thinking. The game play remains fun – it’s fast and furious (though not as tricky as I remember) – but the landscape visuals rapidly descend into a flickering, distorted mess as soon as you try and play it.

Fortunately there is a solution: the latest version of BSNES contains a new scaling and rotation algorithm. Instead of performing the rotation with the original sprite (as performed on the original SNES), it upscales the image, rotates and then reduces it back to the original size – and looses far less detail in the process as it does so.

And the results look fantastic:

Pilotwings, a game I got towards the end of my SNES ownership and long after I had started sliding into the darkside that that was PC gaming, also benefits from the Mode 7 cleanup work. Just look at the quality of the airfield in this footage.

Now all I need to do is to find the time to go back and replay these games in their new 2019 glory!

Watchers on the Web

So as part of the generally good HTML5 spec, the authors have added an absolutely awful un-feature called ‘hyperlink auditing’.

So what is this? Well a classic HTML link looks a little like this…

<a href="http://www.chrisrcook.com/">Go!</a>

This will create a simple link with the text ‘Go!’ that, when clicked, will take you to a location – in this case ‘http://www.chrisrcook.com/’.

The HTML working group have added the option of a second attribute value called ‘ping’. This allows links like this…

<a href="http://www.chrisrcook.com/" ping="http://spying-gits.com/our_tracker">Go!</a>

So what happens here? Well, as before, clicking on the ‘Go!’ link will take you to ‘http://www.chrisrcook.com’. It will also open a second connection to the ‘http://spying-gits.com/our_tracker’ – and so allow hidden third party auditing of your browsing activity and will do so in a way that will not be disabled by classic tracker and ad blockers.

Firefox have taken the sensible route and disabled this functionality by default. Chrome, being the offensive arm of the Google Ad Empire, sends the tracking mark back by default. Apple, in spite of their public commitments to privacy, have implemented it as of Safari 12.1.

Which is a terrible mistake.

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An Alien short for the 40th anniversary of the first film

Alien turns 40 this year and, to me, remains the pinnacle of horror movies and ranks amongst the top tiers of the science fiction pantheon.

Dirty, claustrophobic, unrelenting; it was the complete opposite of another great personal favourite – 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gone was the shining white heat of Kubrick and Clarke’s future, where a top tier crew pushes the boundaries of man’s knowledge with not a mote of dust to be seen. Instead our A Team is replaced with tired industrial workers, each one vested in little more than getting safely back home with their pay packet in their pockets. It was a grimy, tired future, one created by people worn out by the end of the post war dream and who were looking to see a future that reflected a present that refused to change.

Interestingly enough though, both crews get screwed over by a remote governance structure that doesn’t trust them and an artificial intelligence that acts as their local agent. Apparently some fears never change.

As part of this 40th anniversary celebration, a set of Alien themed shorts has been commissioned. The first, below, is a nicely compact piece that manages reflect the fear and claustrophobia of the original film whilst ignoring the pseudo-philosophical tripe that tainted recent efforts. I look forward to the release of the remaining shorts over the next month or so.