Copyfish extends its free OCR to the desktop

CopyfishCopyfish.200.175 is a free Chrome extension which can extract text from just about anything in a browser tab — images, videos, documents, more — and optionally translate it, too.

That’s great, but it’s just got even better, with new support for desktop OCR.

Left-clicking the Copyfish button enables capturing the current browser tab as before, but right-clicking now allows desktop captures from any of your application windows.

This makes for a slightly awkward workflow, as you have to right-click the button, select and share a window to open it in a new tab, then left-click and choose the text you need.

That’s not the fault of Copyfish, though — extensions can’t access desktop windows without permission, for security reasons — and overall this is an excellent addition which makes the package even more useful.


Original URL: http://feeds.betanews.com/~r/bn/~3/e07U9yE5loI/

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Free drum-only backing tracks, sorted by genre and tempo

Quick links to the genre/type:

Blues | Rock | Simple Straight Beat | Metal | JazzReggaeHip Hop

I always enjoy it more to practice my instrument (guitar, bass or piano) to some nice drum backing track. A metronome is just fine if your mind is fresh and you practice a specific part while fully concentrated, but if you are tired after work and just want to have fun, drum tracks are a great way to go.

There are thousands of free drums backing tracks to find on YouTube, but having a nice sorted list of them would come in handy I guess.

So I decided to make my own (sorted by genre and tempo) list of YT backing tracks.

Enjoy.

drum2

Quick links to the genre/type:

Blues | Rock | Simple Straight Beat | Metal | JazzReggaeHip Hop

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Quick links to the genre/type:

Blues | Rock | Simple Straight Beat | Metal | JazzReggaeHip Hop


Original URL: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/feedsapi/BwPx/~3/pp37hWf5hN4/

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UW Law School accepting applications to new Pre-Law Scholars Program

University of Wisconsin Law School is now accepting applications for its inaugural James E. Jones Jr. Pre-Law Scholars Program , a summer immersion experience for students who have completed their freshman or sophomore year of college. The Pre-Law Scholars (PLS) Program at UW Law is designed to improve access to legal education for students from historically underrepresented groups and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Participants will spend four weeks in Madison from June 6 through July 1, 2016 learning about legal education and careers in law from a team of UW Law School experts. They will take introductory law courses featuring the Law Schools hallmark law-in-action approach from law professors, develop their oral and written legal advocacy skills with an interactive course taught by legal writing experts, get advice on applying to law school from admissions staff, network with local practitioners, and learn about areas of legal practice from career counselors. Twenty applicants will be selected to participate in the program, which includes tuition, room and board on the UW-Madison campus for the duration of the program, and a $1,000 stipend. The PLS Program is made possible by a $70,000 grant from the Access Group Center for
Research Policy AnalysisSM . Access Group provides funding for programs that address critical issues facing legal education today, including enhancing access to legal education for students from diverse backgrounds.UW Laws PLS Program was named for the late Professor James E. Jones, the schools first African-American faculty member. A pioneer in equal employment and affirmative action policy, Jones taught labor law and arbitration for nearly 30 years at the Law School, and in 1991, was named Nathan P. Feinsinger Professor of Labor Law. Dean Margaret Raymond expressed her excitement about the creation of the program. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to help a richly diverse group of undergraduates explore whether law school is the right choice for them. Working with UW Law Schools top-notch faculty and staff, they get a sense of what the J.D. program entails and the kinds of careers it will make possible, she said. I’m especially happy we are able to welcome these students to our beautiful campus and UW-Madison community. It is also incredibly meaningful that we can name it after one our true pioneers, Professor Jim Jones, so that his legacy and impact can continue to be recognized.For information and an application form, visit the PLS Program website . The deadline to apply is April 1, 2016. Additional questions can be addressed to Rebecca Scheller, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid at UW Law School, at 608-262-5914 or rebecca.scheller@wisc.edu .


Original URL: http://law.wisc.edu/newsletter/Articles/UW_Law_School_accepting_applicat_2016-02-09

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Casetext (YC S13) Seeks Experienced Product Manager

Casetext is seeking a product manager to help us build the future of the way people research, read, understand, and write about the law. As we scale our company, we need someone who knows how to build great products, is incredibly detail-oriented and organized, and has experience in product management to ensure we continue to build world-class products. You will work closely with the CEO, COO, engineers, designers, and data scientists from product conception to launch, and track the success of products after they are released. You will be the bridge between the technical and business worlds as you design features and experiences that our users love.


Original URL: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/feedsapi/BwPx/~3/JTipGMVPsOo/9cdde244-9eed-4e0b-b109-ba5723ee52c3

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AWS Announces New Set Of Integrated Services Aimed At Game Developers

Game developer working on game with tablet, phone and PC. AWS made several  announcements today aimed squarely at moving the game developer community to its cloud platform. First of all, there’s Amazon Lumberyard, a 3D gaming development engine the company is offering for free with no costs for seat licenses, subscription costs or revenue sharing. For now, it works with console and PC games, but the plan is to offer virtual reality (VR)… Read More


Original URL: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/k-cg5dGVaf4/

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Windows 10 Console Host Enhancements

imageYay! Console host enhancements! Wait… what is the console host? Is that cmd.exe? Or do you mean powershell.exe? It’s neither of these things and it’s both of these things, and more. Ok, I’m just making it more confusing. PowerShell runs in a cmd window, right? Nope. Cmd runs in powershell window? Nope, that’s not right either. Both of these applications are “console mode” applications. They both use the Windows Console subsystem. PE executables (EXEs) have a bit in the header which tells Windows whether it’s a GUI or a console app. Anyway, if it’s a console app, it uses a special process called ConHost.exe This hosting process provides the features of what some people mistakenly call the “cmd window,” or “command window.” So, resizing (yay Windows 10,) quick edit, copy, paste, selection, colours etc.

The Olden Days

This probably isn’t news to you. After all, the inimitable Scott Hanselman blogged about the new console features back in 2014. If you’re an old guy like me, you probably look at the new stuff and think: “Sheesh, about time, but meh, it’s still so lacking.” I remember back when we had no cell phones, and the internet was about ten computers tied together with acoustic couplers and a prayer, and back then our consoles were much more capable. They had cool stuff like ansy.sys drivers, that would let us embed control codes into the text itself to move the cursor around, set colours and generally “gussy up” console output without having to fiddle with APIs. Back when DECs Vaxen roamed the universities of old, people used to make animated text files – think it of an old-school ascii art giphy. Anyway, there is a very cool console emulator that hosts windows console mode apps like cmd and powershell called ConEmu. It has a cool feature where it can inject some hooks into the process to enable ANSI escape sequence processing. Nice, but again, it only works when you use ConEmu.

image

Still, it’s pretty nice and lets you do much more than that. But anyway, moving on.

Open SSH, ANSI and VT100 Terminals

Yes, yes, we know – Scott told us about that too. Open SSH is coming to Windows. Who cares? Open SSH clients are a dime-a-dozen, even on Windows. But wait… this is not just a client. It’s an Open SSH server too – and not just a rough port. Although last year, the one Scott showed looked fairly rough:

Well, it looks rough, sure. For one thing, there’s no colour support. So how does that work on other operating systems, like Linux? Well, Unix terminals are far smarter beasts than the Windows terminal (i.e. the console host.) They understand ansi and vt100 escape sequences, just like Windows 95 used to do about twenty years ago (well, Windows just understood a subset of ANSI.)  What sort of things do these escape sequences let you embed into text? Well, most advanced terminals on Unix understand sequences to change background and foreground colours, move the cursor around, query terminal capabilities, beep, erase text, set attributes like blink, underline, emphasis (bright / dim) etc. Some even can do italics and bold.

OpenSSH Server

So, the goal of Microsoft working on an integrated implementation of OpenSSH for Windows is to allow anyone with an SSH client to remote into a Windows box and run powershell or cmd, or any other console mode application and manage the computer. The thing is, SSH clients like to send lots of escape sequences to control the rendering of the screen to the user, and expects the program on the far side to send them back so it can portray information in a pretty, or at least legible way. It’s a screen-oriented system, not a line-oriented one like the current PowerShell remoting is. It acts like a full, native on-the-box terminal, not like a 1980s edlin input loop. You know, if Microsoft shipped an OpenSSH server and native client that could only offer line-oriented, monochrome interaction, people would just give up entirely and stick to using PuTTY.

It’s a good thing they’re not doing that.

Escape Sequences are Back, Baby!

So, yeah, I just blew the surprise in a single heading but yep. I found out completely by accident when I was playing with an ansi file and I realized I wasn’t even using ConEmu. I did a complete double-take and then did some research.

image

So what works?

Well, a large proportion of ANSI & VT100 escape sequences have been implemented. They are handled at the console host layer (conhost.exe), and not within cmd or powershell. This allows any console mode applications to be exposed through an SSH connection, and they will have enhanced interactivity if they know how to speak terminal-talk escape sequences. I didn’t go through all of the sequences to test, but most, if not all of cursor and colour handling works although it’s still just a16 colour terminal (not 256 color, yet?). Also terminal interrogation works, as does underline, reverse-video, intensity and dim and some other attributes that historically have not worked under windows although the non-functioning attributes were always documented on MSDN.

One thing you’ll notice though is that while it works for prompt functions and raw output in cmd.exe, it doesn’t work out of the box for powershell.exe. This is a pity, but I managed to figure out the undocumented flags used by cmd.exe to enable the functionality in conhost.exe.

How to enable ANSI & VT100 Escape Sequence Processing

There’s a new undocumented bit – 0x04 – you can flip when calling SetConsoleMode. Here’s a script to enable it in PowerShell:

Add-Type -MemberDefinition @"
[DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError=true)]
public static extern bool SetConsoleMode(IntPtr hConsoleHandle, int mode);
[DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError=true)]
public static extern IntPtr GetStdHandle(int handle);
[DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError=true)]
public static extern bool GetConsoleMode(IntPtr handle, out int mode);
"@ -namespace win32 -name nativemethods

$h = [win32.nativemethods]::getstdhandle(-11) #  stdout
$m = 0
$success = [win32.nativemethods]::getconsolemode($h, [ref]$m)
$m = $m -bor 4 # undocumented flag to enable ansi/vt100
$success = [win32.nativemethods]::setconsolemode($h, $m)

Also, if you start powershell.exe from cmd.exe, it will inherit the conhost settings since it’s attaching to a previously created console, not allocating a new one; this also enables escape sequences in powershell.exe.

I assume that at some point in the future this will be documented publically. It’s enabled at such a foundational level in Windows, it’s clear this is destined to become a public API.

Of course, embedding extra control characters into text in PowerShell will confuse its formatter as it will count the hidden characters when computing column widths etc. So, while you can technically create colourized formatdata now, it won’t really work so well until Microsoft get around to fixing this (which I assume they will at some point in the future.) This is likely why powershell.exe does not enable the enhanced console mode by default.

Exciting times, and I mean that without a shred of irony. I await the day when we can switch away from all of this nasty MAML and start writing our PowerShell help in Markdown, and use an inline console Markdown viewer to browse and read colourized, fancy output in our remote terminals over SSH.

In the meantime, you can head on over to textfiles.com and knock youself out “type”-ing the various 1970s archived VT100 text file animations from the cmd.exe window and laughing to yourself like you’re minus 25 years old again (some go too fast to notice, some don’t work, some depend on console width – remember, some of these files are over 40 years old!)

Have fun!


Original URL: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/feedsapi/BwPx/~3/YuSVW-xaUYw/Windows-10-TH2-%28v1511%29-Console-Host-Enhancements

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Apollo’s new owners to seek fresh start for beleaguered company

Apollo Education Group’s decision to go from publicly traded for-profit company to a privately held one may not be the only major restructuring the company will face down the road.

The parent company of the University of Phoenix announced yesterday that it would be sold to a group of investors, including the Vistria Group, for $1.1 billion. Tony Miller, the chief operating officer and a partner of the Vistria Group, who is a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, will become chairman of the Apollo board.

In a statement, Miller said the company wants to focus on its transformation and enhancing student outcomes.

“For too long and too often, the private education industry has been characterized by inadequate student outcomes, overly aggressive marketing practices and poor compliance. This doesn’t need to be the case,” Miller said. “We are committed to accelerating and enhancing efforts to establish the University of Phoenix as the leading provider of quality higher education for working adults and to continue supporting the organization’s commitment to operating in a manner consistent with the highest ethical standards.”

To experts familiar with the for-profit landscape, the move away from being publicly traded could signal a possible future move by Apollo to try a new business model, evolving into a nonprofit or simply rebuilding without the scrutiny of shareholders and the public eye.

The U.S. Department of Education still will have to decide whether to approve the sale in order for the company to remain eligible for federal student aid. However, this new group of investors is familiar with the department’s handling of for-profit entities. Besides Miller, who held his department post during the first term of the Obama administration, Vistria is led by Martin Nesbitt, who has been described by Fortune as a “close pal” of the president.

The University of Phoenix last year received more than $1.7 billion in federal student loans and grants, the most of any college, according to an Inside Higher Ed analysis of federal records.

In July, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sent Apollo a civil investigative demand related to allegations of deceptive or unfair advertising and marketing. In August, California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, announced that her office also would investigate Phoenix for its treatment of military and veteran students. And last week, Apollo announced it had received a second investigative subpoena from Harris’s office. (Federal election records show that last year Nesbitt donated to Harris’s ongoing campaign for U.S. Senate.) The U.S. Department of Defense lifted its probation of Phoenix last month. That sanction stemmed from allegations of improper recruiting of students who receive military tuition assistance.

The department also could impose new limitations on the university as a condition of approving its change in ownership. But such limitations could threaten the sale from being completed, according to a copy of the terms of the deal released Monday. For example, the buyers could walk away from the deal if the department were to require the University of Phoenix to take out a letter of credit that is greater than 10 percent of its federal funding.

Asked about the department’s plans for the University of Phoenix, James Runcie, the chief operating officer of the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, told reporters Monday that “it would be premature and inappropriate for us to talk about what we’re doing with respect to that institution.”

Runcie cited “ongoing investigations” of the university, and said department officials “also have program reviews and other things that we’re going through.”

Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, in a statement, struck a more optimistic tone about the company’s sale.

“It’s encouraging that the Vistria Group is talking about a focus on improving student outcomes. We’ll be watching closely to ensure that they follow through on this commitment,” he said, adding that “what’s good for students will be at the heart of our review.”

A department official, who declined to be named, said in an email that officials had not yet received from the University of Phoenix a sale proposal to review. The official said that, generally speaking, in making such decisions, the department looks at “the type of institution being acquired … its compliance history, the financial condition of the purchaser, the Title IV history of the purchaser and the details of the sales transaction to determine if a change in ownership would be approved for Title IV purposes and if so, any limitations placed on the new company after the institution is purchased.”

A Time for Change?

Apollo long has been the largest for-profit education provider in the country. But its quarterly reports for years now have revealed plummeting revenues and student enrollment numbers. At its peak in 2010, Apollo had 475,000 degree-seeking students and about $4.9 billion in annual revenue. Corporate filings released last month revealed the company’s quarterly revenue was down to $586 million compared to $714.5 million a year ago. Total enrollment also fell to about 201,000 students from about 267,000 last year.

The institution also has faced increased pressure from regulators and the Obama administration.

Apollo and the University of Phoenix thrived under the regulatory environment of the early and mid-2000s, but have been unable to continue those high enrollment and revenue numbers as regulations have tightened during the last few years. There’s also been an increase in competition from the growing nonprofit sector. For example, the rates vary, but tuition for a bachelor degree from Phoenix is $410 per credit, or more. But Southern New Hampshire University, a nonprofit, charges around $320 per credit hour for undergraduate degrees, and community colleges often charge less than $100 per credit hour.

“They were set up in a particular regulatory environment, and when that environment shifts they don’t have anything to fall back on. With all the changes and pressures on higher education in general, you don’t see traditional institutions say, ‘We can’t deal anymore’ and close up shop. They’ve been able to adapt and adjust over time,” said Kevin Kinser, chair of the department of educational administration and policy studies at the State University of New York at Albany and an expert on for-profit education. “The fact that Apollo, University of Phoenix, hasn’t been able to do that is a pretty strong critique against the for-profit sector and its ability to adjust to the market.”

Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said Apollo had a model that worked well 20 years ago, but that changed as the company “cut corners” on quality and chased profits.

“The buyer says the new ownership will focus on compliance, but it is not enough to be a not-corrupt college. We need colleges to strive to be excellent, and I am not sure that the buyers realize how difficult that is in the for-profit environment,” he said, in an email.

The move to privatize and change ownership to a small group of investors could signal that some significant changes will take place that may not have been welcomed by shareholders looking for the company to meet revenue estimates.

“While the company is private, it will be able to maneuver more easily, taking steps that might look bad from a share-price perspective but over the longer term make the school stronger and, at least, appear higher quality,” Shireman said.

Under this new designation, Apollo can reduce tuition, hire more full-time faculty or advise students more fully so that some decide not to attend — all in an effort to improve the perceived value of the company, he said.

Those changes “might take several years, so that the venture investors can make a killing when the company goes public again,” said Shireman. “The problem is that when the company goes public again the new shareholders have every incentive to, one by one, change every policy that has helped protect students from abuse.”

Being able to potentially make radical changes behind closed doors could lead to another outcome.

“Now they can make changes and shifts behind closed doors so no one is looking at their numbers and asking why haven’t they turned it around yet,” Kinser said. “They could be looking at a way to sell off some of their properties, or they could turn the University of Phoenix into online only and get rid of on-the-ground operations. This could be the first step to becoming nonprofit.”

It’s easier for a privately held company to go nonprofit than for a publicly traded one, he said.

Kinser compares this recent move by Apollo to one by Laureate Education, which went private in an effort to expand, but took on debt that would have displeased shareholders. In October, that company announced steps to become publicly traded once again. In addition, there’s Education Management Corporation, which also transitioned from publicly traded to privately held in an effort to restructure and to be exempt from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.

Only a handful of the large, publicly traded for-profit companies are still around — DeVry University, Bridgepoint Education, ITT Technical Services and Career Education Corporation.

“The current and recent environment has been such that a number of schools are looking at how to structure to focus on long-term investments and educational outcomes, rather than quarterly returns for the market,” said Steve Gunderson, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. “I’m not saying that makes one structure better than another, but we’ve seen some incredible diversification.”

— Michael Stratford contributed to this article.

For-Profit Higher Ed
Image Source: 
U of Phoenix
Image Caption: 
U of Phoenix campus in Colorado

Original URL: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company

Original article

Lumberyard + Amazon GameLift + Twitch for Games on AWS

Building world-class games is a very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive process. The audience is incredibly demanding. They want engaging, social play that spans a wide variety of desktop, console, and mobile platforms. Due to the long lead time inherent in the game development and distribution process, the success or failure of the game can often be determined on launch day, when pent-up demand causes hundreds of thousands or even millions of players to sign in and take the game for a spin.

Behind the scenes, the development process must be up to this challenge. Game creators must be part of a team that includes developers with skills in story telling, game design, physics, logic design, sound creation, graphics, visual effects, and animation. If the game is network-based, the team must also include expertise in scaling, online storage, network communication & management, security.

With development and creative work that can take 18 to 36 months, today’s games represent a considerable financial and reputational risk for the studio. Each new game is a make-or-break affair.

New AWS Game Services
Today I would like to tell you about a pair of new AWS products that are designed for use by professional game developers building cloud-connected, cross-platform games. We started with several proven, industry leading engines and developer tools, added a considerable amount of our own code, and integrated the entire package with our Twitch video platform and community, while also mixing in access to relevant AWS messaging, identity, and storage services. Here’s what we are announcing today:

LumberyardA game engine and development environment designed for professional developers. A blend of new and proven technologies from CryEngine, Double Helix, and AWS, Lumberyard simplifies and streamlines game development. As a game engine, it supports development of cloud-connected and standalone 3D games, with support for asset management, character creation, AI, physics, audio, and more. On the development side, the Lumberyard IDE allows you to design indoor and outdoor environments, starting from a blank canvas. You (I just promoted you to professional game developer) can take advantage of built-in content workflows and an asset pipeline, editing game assets in Photoshop, Maya, or 3ds Max for editing and bringing them in to the IDE afterward. You can program your game in the traditional way using C++ and Visual Studio (including access to the AWS SDK for C++) or you can use our Flow Graph tool and the cool new Cloud Canvas to create cloud-connected gameplay features using visual scripting.

Amazon GameLiftMany modern games include a server or backend component that must scale in proportion to the number of active sessions. Amazon GameLift will help you to deploy and scale session-based multiplayer game servers for the games that you build using Lumberyard. You simply upload your game server image to AWS and deploy the image into a fleet of EC2 instances  that scales up as players connect and play. You don’t need to invest in building, scaling, running, or monitoring your own fleet of servers. Instead, you pay a small fee per daily active user (DAU) and the usual EC2 On-Demand rates for the compute capacity, EBS storage, and bandwidth that your users consume.

Twitch IntegrationModern gamers are a very connected bunch. When they are not playing themselves, they like to connect and interact with other players and gaming enthusiasts on Twitch. Professional and amateur players display their talents on Twitch and create large, loyal fan bases. In order to take this trend even further and to foster the establishment of deeper connections and stronger communities, games built with Lumberyard will be able to take advantage of two new Twitch integration features. Twitch ChatPlay allows you to build games that respond to keywords in a Twitch chat stream. For example, the audience can vote to have the player take the most desired course of action. Twitch JoinIn allows a broadcaster to invite a member of the audience into to the game from within the chat channel.

These services, like many other parts of AWS, are designed to allow you to focus on the unique and creative aspects of your game, with an emphasis on rapid turnaround and easy iteration so that you can continue to hone your gameplay until it reaches the desired level of engagement and fun.

Support Services – As the icing on this cake, we are also launching a range of support options including a dedicated Lumberyard forum and a set of tutorials (both text and video). Multiple tiers of paid AWS support are also available.

Developing with Lumberyard
Lumberyard is at the heart of today’s announcement. As I mentioned earlier, it is designed for professional developers and supports development of high-quality, cross-platform games. We are launching with support for the following environments:

  • Windows – Vista, Windows 7, 8, and 10.
  • Console – PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Support for mobile devices and VR headsets is in the works and should be available within a couple of months.

The Lumberyard development environment runs on your Windows PC or laptop. You’ll need a fast, quad-core processor, at least 8 GB of memory, 200 GB of free disk space, and a high-end video card with 2 GB or more of memory and Direct X 11 compatibility. You will also need Visual Studio 2013 Update 4 (or newer) and the Visual C++ Redistributables package for Visual Studio 2013.

The Lumberyard Zip file contains the binaries, templates, assets, and configuration files for the Lumberyard Editor. It also includes binaries and source code for the Lumberyard game engine. You can use the engine as-is, you can dig in to the source code for reference purposes, or you can customize it in order to further differentiate your game. The Zip file also contains the Lumberyard Launcher. This program makes sure that you have properly installed and configured Lumberyard and the third party runtimes, SDKs, tools, and plugins.

The Lumberyard Editor encapsulates the game under development and a suite of tools that you can use to edit the game’s assets.

The Lumberyard Editor includes a suite of editing tools (each of which could be the subject of an entire blog post) including an Asset Browser, a Layer Editor, a LOD Generator, a Texture Browser, a Material Editor, Geppetto (character and animation tools), a Mannequin Editor, Flow Graph (visual programming), an AI Debugger, a Track View Editor, an Audio Controls Editor, a Terrain Editor, a Terrain Texture Layers Editor, a Particle Editor, a Time of Day Editor, a Sun Trajectory Tool, a Composition Editor, a Database View, and a UI Editor. All of the editors (and much more) are accessible from one of the toolbars at the top.

In order to allow you to add functionality to your game in a selective, modular form, Lumberyard uses a code packaging system that we call Gems. You simply enable the desired Gems and they’ll be built and included in your finished game binary automatically. Lumberyard includes Gems for AWS access, Boids (for flocking behavior), clouds, game effects, access to GameLift, lightning, physics, rain, snow, tornadoes, user interfaces, multiplayer functions, and a collection of woodlands assets (for detailed, realistic forests).

Coding with Flow Graph and Cloud Canvas
Traditionally, logic for games was built by dedicated developers, often in C++ and with the usual turnaround time for an edit/compile/run cycle. While this option is still open to you if you use Lumberyard, you also have two other options: Lua and Flow Graph.

Flow Graph is a modern and approachable visual scripting system that allows you to implement complex game logic without writing or or modifying any code. You can use an extensive library of pre-built nodes to set up gameplay, control sounds, and manage effects.

Flow graphs are made from nodes and links; a single level can contain multiple graphs and they can all be active at the same time. Nodes represent game entities or actions. Links connect the output of one node to the input of another one. Inputs have a type (Boolean, Float, Int, String, Vector, and so forth). Output ports can be connected to an input port of any type; an automatic type conversion is performed (if possible).

There are over 30 distinct types of nodes, including a set (known as Cloud Canvas) that provide access to various AWS services. These include two nodes that provide access to Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS),  four nodes that provide access to Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), seven nodes that provide read/write access to Amazon DynamoDB, one to invoke an AWS Lambda function, and another to manage player credentials using Amazon Cognito. All of the games calls to AWS are made via an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user that you configure in to Cloud Canvas.

Here’s a node that invokes a Lambda function named DailyGiftLambda:

Here is a flow graph that uses Lambda and DynamoDB to implement a “Daily Gift” function:

As usual, I have barely scratched the surface here!  To learn more, read the Cloud Canvas documentation in the Lumberyard User Guide.

Deploying With Amazon GameLift
If your game needs a scalable, cloud-based runtime environment, you should definitely take a look at Amazon GameLift.

You can use it to host many different types of shared, connected, regularly-synchronized games including first-person shooters, survival &  sandbox games, racing games, sports games, and MOBA (multiplayer Online Battlefield Arena) games.

After you build your server-side logic, you simply upload it to Amazon GameLift. It will be converted to a Windows-based AMI (Amazon Machine Image) in a matter of minutes. Once the AMI is ready, you can create an Amazon GameLift fleet (or a new version of an existing one), point it at the AMI, and your backend will be ready to go.

Your fleets, and the game sessions, running on each fleet, are visible in the Amazon GameLift Console:

Your Flow Graph code can use the GameLift Gem to create an Amazon GameLift session and to start the session service.

To learn more, consult the Amazon GameLift documentation.

Twitch Integration
Last but definitely not least, your games can integrate with Twitch via Twitch ChatPlay and Twitch JoinIn.

As I mentioned earlier, you can create games that react to keywords entered in a designated Twitch channel. For example, here’s a Flow Graph that listens for the keywords red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and violet.

Pricing and Availability
Lumberyard and Amazon GameLift are available now and you can start building your games today!

You can build and run connected and standalone games using Lumberyard at no charge. You are responsible for the AWS charges for any calls made to AWS services using the IAM user configured in to Cloud Canvas, or through calls made using the AWS SDK for C++, along with any charges for the use of GameLift.

Amazon GameLift is launching in the US East (Northern Virginia) and US West (Oregon) regions, and will be coming to other AWS regions as well. As part of AWS Free Usage tier, you can run a fleet comprised of one c3.large instance for up to 125 hours per month for a period of one year. After that, you pay the usual On-Demand rates for the EC2 instances that you use, plus a charge for 50 GB / month of EBS storage per instance, and $1.50 per month for every 1000 daily active users.


Jeff;

 


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