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Algorithm (2014): Bad Acting of No Consequence

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“Most people have no idea what a hacker can do. I make the world you live in, and I can reshape that world if I feel like it,” says the main character as the movie Algorithm begins.

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Also read: Tor Network May Face Disabling Attack

Background

AlgorithmSelf-described Hacker Luser is an information libertarian. He doesn’t care about politics, he doesn’t care about the acquisition of wealth. His primary drive in life is based on the original hacker ethos: information should be free. To supplement his humble lifestyle in San Francisco, Luser – Will Stevens – does contract work for everyday people. A man wanting to find out about his wife cheating on him hires him, and this leads him to a high-profile CTO of an NSA contractor, which leads him to download a slew of programs, most notably one called “Shepard,” which we later find out is a futuristic, all-seeing, all-powerful tracking program.

Written and directed by Jonathan Schiefer, the film leaves a lot to be desired in terms of acting. The emotional responses of the actors are often underplayed, and there is little or no chemistry between any of the characters. For instance, near the end, when Luser and Pseudonym and Hash are all about to go away to a secret prison, Bitchan, Luser’s near-girlfriend whom he appears to have known for fifteen years, only asks why the Decimate gave them up and silently cries. It would seem that if Luser was really as important to her as she earlier states, she would have a greater reaction – especially in terms of hatred toward Decimate.

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Throughout the film, there is an ambient music which gives one the feeling of learning something very important. If you were to click over to something else, you might think a documentary was taking place. Additionally, the whole thing is narrated by Luser. The production could have done a lot more showing than telling.

Acting

The scene where Hash, the code-oriented hacker, is extracted from Pseudonym’s bar, called Radius, is way undercooked. It could have been the most dramatic moment of the movie. Instead, it’s silent, and the girl who is knocked over is obviously not that troubled by it – even though she appears to be trying to act as if she is. All of this fails to convey the importance of this event to the overall plot.

The real movie part of this movie is how Luser, played by Chris Panzera, goes to all his friends for help all the time. Except for one time, he doesn’t offer them any compensation, and so it’s unclear why these people are safe to talk to – and this would seem a big no-no for a serious hacker. Hackers are naturally paranoid people, prone to trust nothing and no one. It appears that this whole group of people just freely talks about their highly illegal activities with abandon throughout. Given the other realistic tendencies of the film – all done in real locations in San Francisco – it is not asking too much to expect a more realistic leaning in regard to the security culture of Luser and Hash and Pseudonym.

The best acting in the whole movie is by the agent whose apparent job is to release prisoners and be nice to them. He comes off as the most authentic character, played by John Gilligan.

Plot

The premise is that Decimate provides a gig for Luser in the role of a private investigator for a man who believes his wife is cheating on him. The whole thing later turns out to be a setup, though this is never actually explored. The person the wife is cheating on her husband with is the CTO of a major NSA contractor, and through hacking this man, Luser comes upon some serious surveillance programs. Later, it is Decimate who turns Luser in, after Luser has freed his friend Hash by counterfeiting a “prisoner transfer” document. This scene is done wrong, as well, since it would seem that if the prisoner is being transferred he would at least be doing so in chains.

“Don’t you believe in anything?” Luser asks Decimate the night before everyone goes away to prison.

“Survival. […] You either play the game and thrive, or fight, and lose. I don’t lose,” says the douchey friend who gave him the password to access the program in the first place – which should have been a red flag. Decimate also works for “governments and multi-national corporations.” In this reviewer’s experience, unfortunately, Decimate is the norm among security professionals: ego-driven and self-centered.

In the end, we find out that the customer who supposedly wanted to find out about his cheating wife also works for the bad guys. After twenty days of intense interrogation, Luser is released to the care of his friends, and this man attempts to recruit Luser. The movie ends before we find out whether or not he cooperates.

In all, I rate this movie slightly higher than the IMDB (currently 5.9 out of 10). I’ll give it a 6.5 out of 10. While the acting could have been a lot better, the story has an authentic feeling to it – it does not seem so far-fetched anymore that the government would go to these lengths to find and hire the best security researchers out there. It could have done better in its attempt at the polemic, where Luser reveals the activities of a random person using the Shepard program, but the explanation of real software like Tor and even the questioning of whether Tor is vulnerable or not gets it major geek points.

You can watch Algorithm for free. Enjoy.

Images from Algorithm.

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New Bike Simulator Makes it Amusingly Fun to Exercise

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We joined Activetainment‘s Norway launch of their new B\01 Bike in Oslo earlier this month. The new bike is a part of the training concept named ebove which is:

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a unique training concept that combines exercise and gaming.

Activetainment strives to make indoor exercise more like outdoor exercise, with both visual and motional features. The company claims that they deliver the most engaging, entertaining and realistic indoor exercise experience in the world. The only way to test their claim was to try a few of the bikes ourselves and interview one of the founders.

 

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Interview with co-founder Jan Arild Svello from Activetainment

Who started Activetainment?

My classmates, Jørgen Østby Damslora and Sondre Fossum, and I met the inventor of the technology, Ziad Badarneh, during a school course. We immediately saw that this idea could become the next big thing within the fitness industry and consequently formed Activetainment with Ziad in 2012.

We have a genuine desire to make indoor exercise more fun than it currently is by using elements from gaming and gamification. We created bike simulators that move like outdoor bikes in line with what you see on the screen. The combination of hardware and software that we created was brand new.

Have you been working on the project full time since 2012?

Yes, we have. The first year we all worked “pro-bono” and we had to find the cheapest food products to cope. But all entrepreneurs know about that entrepreneurial stage. Then we succeeded to raise funds from private investors which made it possible to develop our prototypes in cooperation with our production partner in Asia.

Tell me more about your VR-concept

Virtual reality is something that we wanted early on for our bikes. As standard, they are equipped with a touchscreen where you see the track you are exercising on, but with VR you can get a different and more real experience. We want our bikes to be able to utilize all new technology that can improve the experience. When we used VR on our bikes for first time, we understood that this was the future.

Everyone that tries this their first time, gets an ‘out of body experience’. You’ll experience real fear and adrenaline, and that is something we’re pretty proud of.

What has been most difficult with your startup?

It takes time! It always takes longer time than you expect. The product development has given us a few challenges as well. The fun starts now as we are able to finally sell our products.

How many have you sold?

After showcasing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year we got almost 200 consumer inquiries, but we weren’t able to start taking orders at that time. We have now just opened up for orders and we have already sold 15 bikes.

How much does a bike cost?

We have an introductory offer, where you can get the whole set-up and a special edition design for $4600. The normal sale price will be between $6000 to $8000. We will mainly target businesses like hotels and gyms first though.

Have you had multiple funding rounds?

Yes, we have. Our investors are private persons that we know through our own network, and they have invested in us through multiple rounds. We haven’t chosen to go after venture capital yet since we have managed to fund the startup ourselves. Now, since we have started to sell our product, we want to become sustainable as fast as possible.

What is next year’s goal?

We want to sell and ship bikes and establish new partnerships for our distribution. In the coming years we also want to change our focus from hardware to software and open up for 3rd-party developers to contribute.

What software are you using?

We are using Unity as our game platform and Linux as our operative system.

Review of Activetainment’s ebove B/01

The B\01 Bike made me sweat after just a few minutes on it. I wasn’t pedaling that fast, but the energy I used to try and stay balanced was more than enough to make me burn some fat. As this was my first time trying the bike I believe it will become easier to stay balanced the next time around and get some real pedaling action.

I tried both their virtual reality connected bike and a bike with a lcd-screen attached to the steering (one of their newer models). The VR-bike gave me the most challenge and felt most real. However, since this was the first time I’ve ever tried a VR-concept, I struggled with maintaining balance on the bike. I swayed heaviliy from side to side the first five minutes on the bike but after a while I got more comfortable.

I can say that I’ve never had so much fun on an indoor bike before, and it may even beat the outdoor experience – as I love both the gaming and technology aspect of the concept. I can imagine this will become a huge success when you are able to gather your friends to an online bike competition.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that will happen anytime soon for the “average joe” as the price of $4600 to $8000 is too expensive for the mass market. But I believe that fitness gyms and high class hotels will fight over these bikes

Images by Jonas Borchgrevink @Hacked.

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Interviews

Interview With The Creator Of Joe Rogan’s Preferred Writing App, WriteRoom

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I started using WriteRoom after I heard Joe Rogan mention the software on his podcast, The Joe Rogan experience. The comedian says he uses the software for his comedy writing sessions he strives to do daily. The software’s purpose is to serve as a no thrills text editor that offers a plain full-screen mode thus blocking out all the distractions. Whether it’s cat memes, fear porn or debates in comment sections, Jesse Grosjean, creator of the software and founder of Hogbay Software, wants to help you be more productive.

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The idea behind WriteRoom posits that with fewer visible options on screen, concentration on the writing process increases. As PC Mag stated, “WriteRoom makes concentrating easier than any other app I’ve tried.”

When I use WriteRoom, my ideas are better, I can flush them out in my very own mind tunnel (of course with some music playing, perhaps Gorillaz or The Clash). The endless distractions to every corner of the imagination provided by the Internet no longer exist. Alongside a version for Mac, an iOS version is also available.

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In the full-screen version, the only available graphics other than your text is the word count. Customizations are available, and there is even spell-checking, grammar-correcting and autocorrect. WriteRoom offers numerous Themes to change the appearance of the screen. It appears Mr. Rogan likes a green text on black background. I tend to use a black background with white text.

WriteRoom creates plain text files in standard .TXT format. To italicize, bold, create headlines, and so on, I open the document in Google Documents or Word and format. The company recently updated FoldingText. As Jesse wrote on the company blog:

It’s a free update to all existing users. FoldingText 2.1 comes with a lot of bug fixes and improvements.

 

  • A Calculator Mode: Now you can perform math calculations right within Foldingtext. See Help > Calc Mode Guide.
  • A Stopwatch Mode: Run timers from within FoldingText to track time. Useful for keeping track of your time while writing. See Help > Stopwatch Mode Guide.
  • Auto pairing brackets, multiple cursors, customizable notification sounds and much more.

 

I spoke with Jesse about WriteRoom and his other software, FoldingText. I ask him about Joe Rogan’s mention of WriteRoom and the effect it had on Hogbay Software and other things.

So, I heard about your software from Joe Rogan. Did you know he mentioned it on his podcast one time? Did that affect sales to a noticeable degree? Are there other well-known writers using your software?

JG: This was a number of years ago. I didn’t hear the podcast, but I had quite a few people tell me about it. I’m sure it affected sales positively, but I’m not really sure by how much. For better or worse, I spend most of my time messing with software, and not much tracking sales.

I’m not sure who’s using WriteRoom. Truth is I have a hard time remembering the names of people that I see every week in my men’s league soccer. Remembering who is using WriteRoom is out of the realm of possibility for me. I would hope at least a few famous people have used it, and I guess Joe Rogan’s one example.

How is your soccer team doing?
JG: Heh, good! We often win the league in in fact! But, it’s a mens over 30, small sided, 5v5 including keepers, indoor on astroturf, with only 5 team’s in the league. So maybe not the level of competition that’s generally described when someone claims to play on a winning team…

writeroom3-3

Why might writers enjoy FoldingText? What sorts of features does it have beyond WriteRoom?

JG: FoldingText isn’t really meant to replace WriteRoom. With that said if you are writing using Markdown syntax, then I think you would prefer FoldingText since one of the big things that it does is highlight Markdown syntax.

Have you heard of the early text editor, GrandView? Did that serve as an inspiration at all?

JG: Depends on which GrandView.I’m really interested in outliners and GrandView was in the first wave of PC outliners way back in DOS days, I think. That software is a bit before my time, and I never used it, but I have read about it and other old outliners such as ThinkTank and others.

Any plans for the future?

JG: Right now I’m working on an update to TaskPaper.

What is TaskPaper’s strength?

JG: TaskPaper is for managing to-do lists in a plain text file. It’s related to FoldingText (FoldingText was created by wondering what would happen if I took the ideas in TaskPaper and turned them up to 11), but less ambitious and simpler. I’ve been deep into FoldingText for a number of years, and now it’s TaskPaper’s turn for an update.

Tell us a bit about recent updates to FoldingText in version 2.1, if you don’t mind.

JG: I think calculator mode is the neatest new feature. It allows you to do math, and see live results, in your text file.

FoldingText is definitely the coolest piece of software that I’ve worked on, but it’s also quite geeky and not easy to sell. Much easier to sell simpler more focused apps like WriteRoom and TaskPaper. Going forward Mutahhir [], who also worked with me to create FoldingText, is going to work on it with an eye toward bug fixes and maintaining it into the future.

Thanks for chatting with Hacked.com, Jesse.

JG: My pleasure and thank you!

Images from Shutterstock and the Writeroom software.

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Entertainment

Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme Brings Podcasts, Comedy & Music Together

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AntwoordYolandi

Yolandi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord during the headlining set.

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The first thing I noticed as I walked into the third annual Festival Supreme, at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on the USC campus, was the air conditioning. I noticed it from the zig-zagging line to enter and immediately thought this would be a much different experience than I anticipated: there would be a reprieve from the 100-degree weather outside. I had thought myself destined to suffer heat and humidity the entire day long like Jack Black’s character in Tropic Thunder. Alas, Festival Supreme attendees were spared by the A/C Gods.

As I walked into the main hall upon entering the festival, Toby Huss (Pete & Pete, King Of The Hill) was beginning a refreshing jazz rendition of “California Uber Alles” by the Dead Kennedys. A large neon sign mimicking the “Welcome To Las Vegas” sign caught my attention, instead reading “Welcome To Festival Supreme.” I made my way through the air conditioned theater and into a parking lot baking in the sun, where food trucks lined an alley offering $6 tacos and $13 vegetarian options.

PPLMVR

PPL MVR took the growing human crowd hostage

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The One and Only PPL MOVR came as advertised. I think they knocked me into a different dimension for a split second with their loud pounding music. This band of ancient species rocked hard with moving riffs. SNWBLL, K-PO, and Q ensured their human members stayed on point through a hard-hitting set much enjoyed by the small yet growing crowd.

Back in the air-conditioned Karma Chameleon Stage, Dan Harmon hosted his podcast “Harmonlive.” I can only imagine this is the first festival from which a podcast broadcasted live as part of the festival. Soon thereafter in the theater, Puddles Pity Party exhibited Puddles the sad clown. He sang somber love songs in Spanish and English. Later, Puddles could be seen rocking out to Rocket From The Crypt, where he was still doing just so-so. The Karma Chameleon Stage was packed the entire day, in part thanks to the talented list of entertainers and the A/C.

Also on the Karma Chameleon Stage, Nathan Fielder screened “Nathan For You” which premieres on Comedy Central this week, and Amy Poehler played a caricature of an Amy Poehler from an alternative universe – one more cynical and politically active. She stood on stage smoking a mock joint and discussed the truth she was speaking on her nationwide tour before inviting somebody out from the audience so she and Jack Black could sing them a song.

Neil Hamburger told some good jokes: “What do Ocean’s 13 and 2Pac have in common?” he asked. The crowd replied: “What?”

“They both were shot in Vegas,” Hamburger riposted.

IMG_1381

Henry Rollins spoke about life, death & Jack Frost.

Aubrey Plaza walked off the stage after leading the crowd in a seemingly cathartic chant, “We’re all going to die, we’re all going to die” on the Karma Chameleon stage. Outside around the same time, Big Freedia led a mass-twerk off, where after Henry Rollins discussed why he was in the movie Jack Frost, citing his strong work ethic. “I want to be very busy my entire life; then I want to die.” He was on the smaller Komodo Dragon stage where acts like Nick Thune, Andrew W.K, and Dan Deacon performed throughout the day and night.

Rocket From The Crypt’s Jon Reis made it be known they were from San Diego multiple times, playing a diverse set from throughout their discography. The San Diego band’s leader, Jon Reis, mentioned how, for him, playing parking lots was stressful. He pulled a clock from the side of the stage and showed the crowd. “There’s a fucking clock counting down; that’s stressful.” The San Diego band continued their set, going over by three minutes and ultimately the sound guy pulled the plug before they stopped. “There’s an ulterior motive here for us,” the music veteran said, “We don’t really give a shit what you think. We just want to play.”

RFTC1

San Diego’s Rocket From The Crypt

Tenacious D played a set of eclectic jazz from 8:00 pm-8:30 pm in The Jesus Lizard Lounge, which was set up in the main auditorium. Before walking out onto stage, Jack Black repeated “Fuck the jazz gods” into the PA. This was likely one of the better attended and well-executed performances of the day, featuring a classic mix of jazz selection with a dash of comedy.

Darkness2

The Darkness

Everyone knows The Darkness, and the crowd was excited to see this band who flew out to Los Angeles from England for Festival Supreme. At the very least, the crowd was stoked to hear “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” live and the band did not disappoint, sounding energized as if they had not played the tune countless times before.

Headliners Die Antwoord, who also came to the United States solely for Festival Supreme, packed a punch. I did not know what to expect from their live performance, but the experience was body shaking. Literally. The band’s bass bumped so loud it knocked my back into alignment. The South Africans were full of energy and brought up the mood of a crowd that had been at the event since the early afternoon. The group’s set was easily the best attended of the day. A flux in college students seemed to pile into the festival into the evening and night. They played all of the songs and created the feel of a happening and at-capacity dance club. All around, men and women moved their hips and danced to the group’s hypnotic beats.

Halfway through the group’s set, Jack Black came on stage to lead a song with his acoustic guitar about how big Die Antwoord rapper Ninja’s penis is. As the set came to a roaring end, Yolandi Vi$$er moved both of her hands through the air over her head as if to create a rainbow and said slowly in her high-pitched voice: “Beeee Happpppy,” putting a spell over the crowd. Then she jumped off stage repeating, “pew!” into the microphone, as she does.

And with that the event came to a close. Hacked covered it thinking there would be more of a podcast element to the festival, but the lack thereof didn’t matter. Being out in the sun for a good ole’ fashion festival was just what the doctor ordered. Having brought together a diverse group of artists, musicians, actors and actresses, Festival Supreme was a mix of Comic-Con and Coachella, sans the strict security and corporate gloss. I look forward to what the festival has store in 2016.

Images from the writer and Shutterstock.

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