The Lucky-Bounce Edition Friday, January 13, 2017

How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games, by Simon Parkin, Naultius

“In Peggle, the seemingly random bouncing of the balls off of pegs is sometimes manipulated to give the player better results,” Jason Kapalka, one of the game’s developers, admitted to me. “The Lucky Bounce that ensures that a ball hits a target peg instead of plunking into the dead ball zone is used sparingly. But we do apply a lot of extra ‘luck’ to players in their first half-dozen levels or so to keep them from getting frustrated while learning the ropes.” Tweaking the direction of any given bounce by just a few compass degrees—but not so much that the ball swerves unrealistically in mid-air—is enough to encourage beginners and not make the game too unbelievable, Kapalka said.

Fairness is the unspoken promise of most video games. Controlled by an omniscient and omnipotent designer, a video game has the capacity to be ultimately just, and players expect that it will be so. (Designers also have an incentive to be even-handed: A game that always beats you is a game you’ll soon stop playing.) And yet, when video games truly play by the rules, the player can feel cheated.

Privacy Matters

Demand For Secret Messaging Apps Is Rising As Trump Takes Office, by Lauren Smiley, The Verge

That Sunday, Bryan shared an idea about how to communicate: “Whats-App,” she said, enunciating the two syllables as if trying the name out for the first time. “A group that is entirely encrypted, where we know what we share is completely safe.”

Nathan Freitas, a software developer and privacy activist, was sitting in the pews. “I’m like, did my reverend just use the word ‘encryption’?”

Test Sans Cache

Consumer Reports Changes Course And Now Recommends New 2016 MacBook Pro, by Greg Barbosa, 9to5Mac

After becoming aware of a Safari bug that may have impacted results, CR recently started retesting on a newer build of macOS Sierra in which the bug was supposedly fixed.

Why We Should Care About The Consumer Reports MacBook Pro Rating, by Glenn Fleishman, TidBITS

The moral of the story is that, when the results of one test are so unusual, the correct thing to do is dig more, not introduce confusion into the world. The reason isn’t to save a company’s feelings or sales, but to keep your bond of trust with your readers.


Google Lets Imaginations Run Wild With Toontastic 3D App, by Terry Collins, CNET

The search giant said Thursday it's launching Toontastic 3D, which lets kids simply "animate and narrate" their own stories by selecting their characters and background using the app's editor and camera features.

Ecobee3 Remote Sensors Now Work As HomeKit Motion Detectors & Room Temperature Monitors, by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac

It’s a Wi-Fi smart thermostat with remote sensors that detect both presence and temperature in individual rooms, and the latest firmware update to Ecobee3 officially adds HomeKit support to these sensors.

Microsoft Launches StaffHub, A New Office 365 App Aimed At Shift Workers, by Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

The program is aimed at those who don’t tend to work from desktop computers and have different schedules from week to week, such as in retail, hospitality, restaurants, and other industries. Shutting Down Twitter-like Social Platform On March 14, Open Sources Code, by Ken Yeung, VentureBeat

Launched in 2012, the social network billed itself as being ad-free and subscription-based, but on Thursday, the company announced it was shutting down. will cease to exist on March 14, citing an inability to generate meaningful revenue and failing to gain attention of developers and users.


Apple Increases App Size Restriction For tvOS Apps From 200MB To 4GB, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

With today’s change, tvOS apps can now be just as big as iOS apps, which are also capped at 4GB. Apple says that this increase in size will allow for developers to “provide a complete, rich user experience” right from installation.

The Dark Path, by Robert C. Martin, The Clean Code Blog

The question is: Whose job is it to manage that risk? Is it the language’s job? Or is it the programmer’s job?

Types Vs TDD, by Chris Eidhof

Don’t get me wrong: types are not a silver bullet. You still need to test your code. But wouldn’t you rather test interesting parts, and leave the boring stuff to the compiler?


How Apple's Culture Of Secrecy Wears Down Its Top Developers, by Julie Bort, Business Insider

But someone in Lattner's circle of developer friends shared some insight at to why Lattner was calling it quits at Apple now, even as one of his major contributions, Swift, had really taken off. (Lattner did not respond to our requests for comment.)

This person said one big reason was that Apple's culture of secrecy was wearing on him, particularly because it was his job (and his life's work) to create open-source developer tools.

U.S. Appeals Court Revives Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple, by Stephen Nellis and Dan Levine, Reuters

iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.

Apple's Lisa Jackson Joins Federal Committee Advising On Vehicle Automation, by Mitchel Broussard, MacRumors

Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives, has been named as a member of the new Federal Committee on Automation. Announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the committee will act as an advisory panel to discuss and look into "some of the most pressing and relevant matters facing transportation today."

Bottom of the Page

When the App Store was new, I was checking for new apps to try out almost every single day. And like many people, I've stopped trying out new apps over the years.

Could it be that Apple need to find new ways to promote apps from third-party developers who are not named Nintento? Or could it be that we are all getting older, and the small font sizes in the App Store are not that great for old eyes?


Thanks for reading.