Happy 11th Birthday Jack!

Today our son Jack celebrates his 11th birthday.  It is amazing how the time has flown by.

We’re celebrating – as we often do now that we live in Florida – with a couple days at Disney World.  He loves it here, and so here we are.

Jack is nearly a perfect blend of my wife and I.  From her, he gets a lot of his looks, wit, personality and his penchant for being a clown.  From me, he gets his body shape and size as well as a bit of athleticism and a love of all things computerized.

Nerd in Training

I’ve been teaching Jack a lot about computers since he was young.  He’s been able to use a laptop since he was 2.  Of course back then he tended to wreck them because he thought popping the keys off my old pc notebooks was great fun.
Now as he’s gotten older I’ve exposed him to more about how computers work.  A little programming here and there.  So far I’ve not shown him anything intense – we’ve stuck to things like Scratch and JavaScript.  He seems to like it, but he definitely hasn’t had a burning itch to build anything.

I’ve thought a lot about how Jack views computers and programming compared to how I did as a kid.  When I was a kid – by the time I was 8 – I was writing code and building all sorts of things.  I had, and still have, an Applesoft BASIC programming guide that I read cover to cover many many times.  I used it to build all sorts of neat little programs and games.  By the time I was 12 I had dozens of disks with all sorts of programs on them – not only things that I invented myself – but lots of programs I typed in from the magazines of the 80s.  Remember COMPUTE magazine?  It used to be half code that you could use to type in and create programs or games.

I believe its entirely a sign of the times to see how my son looks at computers vs how I did at his age.  When I was 11 (in 1987) computers were vastly different.  They were quite unreliable and so you had to be good at troubleshooting just to get them to work.  In addition programs were harder to come by – you had to phsysically get and copy discs from someone, or find what you need in a store – and hope that when you get it home the discs worked – because they didn’t work quite often. In many cases the programs you wanted or needed just didn’t exist so you had to write it yourself.

Today, my son has grown up in an environment where everything just works.  Not only that, but if you need an app you just go to an app store and get it.  There is no waiting,  no copying discs, no shopping around, no tweaking autoexec.bat or config.sys files.  It all just works.

So in a sense – he doesn’t need to get good at programming and system configuration to do what he wants – at least not in the same way that I did.  Where as I had to spend hours building custom boot disks to get my games to work, he just clicks a button and it works every time.   So he has been able to focus his computing on more interesting things – what he likes to call “hacking”.

Hacker in Training

Jack “hacks” by adding things to games or finding ways to get items in games.  He has “hacked” Club Penguin and MineCraft for the most part.

In Club Penguin there are lots of sites that tell you how to execute JavaScript via the console to do things in the game.  It is not really hacking in the sense that you are cheating.  He uses JavaScript to become friends with the special Disney characters in the game.  Normally the Disney character has to be logged in, but using JavaScript you can become friends with any character as long as you know their ID number.  He loves this kind of thing because now he is friends with lots of the special Disney penguin characters.  Plus it has helped him learn JavaScript a little bit.  He has gained some understanding of functions, parameters and how to do things in the browser consoles.

In Minecraft he’s played a lot with mods.  This has taught him somethings about system configurations, JARs, ZIPs, application data and some of the other murkier topics of how apps work.  Minecraft mods can be surprisingly difficult to get to work sometimes and he has learned a lot about how to get things to work.

Growing up a Nerd in 2014

I’ve learned a lot from Jack as he’s grown up.

I have always wanted to teach him about computers.  At first I tried to give him the same experiences I had when I was a kid – but he didn’t get into it.  It took me a while, but I’ve realized over the years, he’s learning a lot of the same concepts I did as a kid – but in a more relevant way to the way the world works today.  He’s learning the skills to use and adapt today’s apps and computers to the desires he has.  I think its great, and I look forward to encouraging and watching what he does in the future.

I am sure the next 11 years will be just as great!  Happy Birthday Jack!

 

Web Software Vulnerabilities and the Internet of Things

At this point, most folks who are a bit technical have heard of the “Internet of Things”.  (IoT)  The idea is that most every electronic device you own will be connected to the internet, things like your watch, fridge, TV, thermostat, alarm clock, etc.  You can then control or monitor all of this stuff online.  An interesting concept to be sure – even if its not the most practical in many cases.

Tonight, I read an article on DZone that expressed fear of future attacks after the revelation of the Heartbleed vulnerability.  Specifically fear of what might become of the future IoT where most of our devices are all internet connected and in some way or another use the internet.

The concept was, basically, what if hackers find ways to attack these devices?  If history proves a guide to the future implementation of these devices – they will all use commodity hardware and software – similar enough that if one is hacked, they might all be.  In general, I think he’s probably right on this count.  Most of the IoT will probably use cheap commodity hardware and software.

But, hackers don’t generally hack just to hack.  Most of the time, they are hacking for profit or politics.  Hackers attempt to hack things like SSL, or banks, or ATMs or eCommerce sites because they can steal things from them.  Or, they are hacking because they have some idealogical issue that motivates them.  It is truly rare for a hacker to hack just for fun or to mess with someone.

For example: No one is going to spend significant amounts of time finding ways to hack someone’s internet connected coffee machine.  Why would you bother?  There is no profit there.  Sure it would be funny to mess someones coffee recipe up or make their coffee brew at 2am, I guess.

But no one is going to waste any kind of time to actually do this – and if they do, you just remove the coffee machine from your Wi-Fi.  Problem solved until … Mr. Coffee issues a patch and then problem really solved.  I think this will be the pattern for any IoT device security issue in the future – pretty much just like every other kind of security issue we have now.  It gets discovered, analyzed, patched and fixed.  No need to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

 

Battle Blaster is now Free… Download and Enjoy. :-)

I created Battle Blaster a year or so ago. I spent quite a bit of time planning, learning, developing, and refining the game. It was a great experience.

Unfortunately, the timing of the game’s release was poor. It came out during the flood of releases right before Christmas 2010 and went largely unnoticed. (It was originally called Outpost Titan, and was released in early December 2010.) Like many other iPhone developers, I didn’t strike it rich. But I learned quite a bit from developing this app that added to my skill set, and helped me get my current gig, so it worked out quite well.

It occurred to me this morning that I should just make it free, so people can play and enjoy it. So, I am:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/battle-blaster/id362713516?mt=8

Download and enjoy.

If you like it or have any recommendations let me know. I’ve toyed around with the idea of making a sequel since I have a ton of ideas I left on the shelf.

(NOTE: I just updated the price to free in iTunes Connect – so if it shows up as 99 cents still please try again in a few minutes. Price changes take a little bit to propagate.)

Cats and Dogs Tic Tac Toe Updated!

After gathering quite a bit of feedback from users, I have updated and enhanced the Cats & Dogs Tic Tac Toe game. Now you can pick your board avatar from one of 18 different choices, 9 cats and 9 dogs. I’ve also added new graphics and sound effects to add to the fun of the game.

Cats and Dogs is still free on the App Store. Open your App Store icon on your iOS device to download a copy or update your old copy today. You can also click here to open and download Cats and Dogs in iTunes, then just sync your iOS device and your good to go.