Player stuck in an eternal Civ II war

Then, in 2012, he decided to share his Eternal War with the Internet.

He was looking for help. Try as he might to break the stalemate, the war had persisted for almost two thousand in-game years. He’d transformed Celtania from a democracy into a communist dictatorship so he could better wage war against the Vikings and Americans. “I tried for a very long time to maintain democracy,” he says. “But it only hinders me having the Senate force these peace treaties down my throat. If I have a peace treaty enforced that means that I cannot attack my enemy force that I know is preparing to attack me.”

His citizens hated him, and were in frequent revolt; the other two superpowers were theocracies that similarly ruled through fear. Nuclear war had ravaged the world: much of the terrain was poisoned with fallout, which, along with other pollution, caused the ice caps to melt (several times over, “an abstraction, of course” Moore adds), flooding the rest of the world’s farmland. Every city was nearly deserted, and the earth’s meager population was starving.

He needed engineers to restore farmland, but all of his resources were poured into war, which seemed necessary to keep him in the game. So, in June of 2012, (3991 AD in the game), Moore wrote a Reddit post under his username “Lycerius”, describing his predicament. “I couldn’t sleep one night so I was playing the game and I just figured, well, this is pretty interesting,” he says. “I thought this would be a neat story. I typed it up due to a little bit of insomnia.”

“You’ve heard of the 100 year war? Try the 1700 year war,” he wrote. “My goal for the next few years is to try and end the war […] I want to rebuild the world. But I’m not sure how. If any of you old Civ II players have any advice, I’m listening.”

Reddit responded in force almost immediately. “Three or four hours later my post was just everywhere,” Moore remembers. “It was really incredible how fast it was disseminated and how quickly people took notice.” A new subreddit dedicated to the game appeared and gained thousands of members. Moore uploaded his save file so strangers could play his game and prototype strategies. Civilization buffs raced toward not just any solution, but the best solution. Others began generating art inspired by the dystopia in the game, including stylized Celtania propaganda posters, along with pages and pages of fiction set in Moore’s universe. “Apparently George Orwell was a time traveler,” wrote one Redditor, “and spent all his time in the future playing Civ II.”

“You’ve heard of the 100 year war? Try the 1700 year war.”

Moore’s game, and the frenzy around it, soon received coverage everywhere from Ars Technica to CNN. “There’s no way we could have tested for this, so it was a surprise to us,” Civilization’s creator, Sid Meier, told Mashable. “I can’t say that we ever thought anyone would play a game of Civ for that long.”

It was also a surprise to Henry Lowood, the Curator for History of Science & Technology Collections and Film & Media Collections in the Stanford University Libraries. He’s long been involved in the preservation of computer games and virtual worlds. He and his team archived Moore’s game, and some of the Reddit discussion around it, as part of a project funded by the Library of Congress. (“I didn’t work through it myself,” he says, laughing. “The people who solved it are pretty intense Civilization players.”)

Lowood studies the cultural artifacts people make with and about computer games, and he knows there are a lot of them. There are forums in which people discuss characters, cheat codes, and strategies; real-currency marketplaces for items and properties in virtual worlds like Second Life; WarCraft celebrities streaming their gameplay on Twitch; and “machinima”—movies that build novel narratives using videogame animations, just to name a few.

He says the Eternal War is unique: It’s the biggest known case of somebody’s actual save file—their actual gameplay, not a video of it—going viral. “People tend to keep software, and their own games,” he says, “but there’s very little public documentation on actual replay. The oldest replay I know of for example that’s accessible that we were able to work with was one from Doom for 1994-95.”

The Eternal War intrigued Lowood because, as librarians, he and his colleagues think gameplay is very important. They’ve had some success in preserving the out-of-the-box games, but they think that the way people played these games will end up being just as, if not more, important. “A game’s not going to tell us anything about what people did with it,” he says. “If we save only the game software we’ll be able to play it in 100 years. The other interesting stuff is—how was it part of the culture 100 years from now? They’ll be interested in what people did in this really early stage in the development of digital media.”

As technology and licensing practices change, Lowood says sharing and saving gameplay is getting trickier. He and his colleagues are developing tools to ensure continued preservation; in the meantime they’re snatching up whatever they can find.

A game’s not going to tell us anything about what people did with it—100 years from now we want to know how it was part of the culture.

The Eternal War is a great example of the cultural importance of gameplay, Lowood says. Moore had done something so remarkable with his game that it was even interesting to a popular, contemporary audience. “If you read the Reddit boards,” Lowood said, “people saw the game as showing this dystopian future of what’s going to happen to the real world, when we use up all the resources and the only thing left is war.” Most people playing Civilization II in 2012 or 2002 didn’t know they could play the game that far in the future, or think anyone would ever want to. And, Lowood says, this would be a profound loss for historians.

A historian who only had an out-of-the-box copy of Civilization II would never know, for example, that a young man named James Moore found the game’s simulation of future warfare so compelling that he played through it for ten rather difficult years. They’d never know about his stubborn devotion to democracy, or the fact that—even when he had the resources to clean it up—he once let one of his ruined cities remain surrounded by nuclear fallout as a “monument” to remind him to be more aggressive. And they’d never know that thousands of strangers were enthralled by this game, made art about it, and banded together in a symbolic but earnest effort to redeem the simulated future and “save the world.”

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IBM to buy consulting specialist Bluewolf

IBM sees customers of as key to growing revenue at its Global Business Services consulting division.

No, it’s not buying, as was rumored last year.

Big Blue has, instead, made a bid for Bluewolf, a consulting practice that specializes in helping companies integrate’s CRM services into their IT systems. IBM values the market for this and other professional services around at $111 billion annually.

Bluewolf has been working with since 2001, and publishes an annual report on the market for that company’s services, “The State of Salesforce.”

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Xamarin now free in Visual Studio, and Xamarin SDK being open-sourced

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft bought Xamarin, the popular C#-and-.NET-on-iOS-and-Android, last month. At its Build developer conference today, the company announced the first big step for its new acquisition: Xamarin is now included in every Visual Studio version.

This announcement means that every Visual Studio, from the free Community edition right up to the Enterprise edition, now has access to the Xamarin tooling so that developers can build applications for Android and iOS (though iOS development continues to need access to an OS X machine) using the .NET and C# tools they love.

There are no restrictions to this inclusion, either. As an independent company, Xamarin did have a free version to give developers a taste of what it offered, but the product was historically restricted to only support small executables, with anything larger requiring a paid license. That’s not the case today; even Visual Studio 2015 Community has no size or other restrictions. Some enterprise-oriented Xamarin features are still restricted, and developers will need a Visual Studio Enterprise subscription to use these.

Xamarin also supports development on OS X using Xamarin Studio. This too is now available for free as a community edition for small teams, and is included in MSDN Subscriptions.

Microsoft will also be open sourcing the Xamarin SDK over the next few months. This move means that the Xamarin runtime and libraries, as well as all its build tools, will be released on Github, and they’ll be managed by the .NET Foundation. Included in this open sourcing is the Xamarin Forms library that provides a cross-platform toolkit for building user interfaces.

This decision is arguably one of the main things that developers were hoping might come of a Xamarin acquisition. The tooling and its capabilities are well liked, but its pricing put it out of reach of some developers. That should change today.

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Mono Relicensed as MIT

At Microsoft Build today, we announced that we are re-releasing Mono under the MIT license and have contributed it to the .NET Foundation. These are major news for Mono developers and contributors, and I am incredibly excited about the opportunities that this will create for the Mono project, and for other projects that will be able to benefit from this.

Mono Runtime Released under MIT License

While Mono’s class libraries have always been available under the MIT license, the Mono runtime was dual-licensed. Most developers could run their apps on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X on the LGPL version of the runtime, but we also offered Mono’s runtime under commercial terms for scenarios where the LGPL was not suitable.

Moving the Mono runtime to the MIT license removes barriers to the adoption of C# and .NET in a large number of scenarios, embedded applications, including embedding Mono as a scripting engine in game engines or other applications.

Open Sourcing Proprietary Mono Extensions

Over the past 5 years, Xamarin has developed a number of proprietary extensions to Mono, including:

  • ARM64 port of the Mono runtime
  • Workarounds for bugs in some ARM chips
  • Use of Apple’s CommonCrypto to implement the crypto classes in the .NET API
  • Integration with X509 certificates on Apple platforms
  • Support for “Native Types” on Apple platforms
  • Generic Value Type Sharing
  • Offset tool to maintain the cross compiler

These have been integrated with the main Mono codebase, contributed along with Mono to the .NET Foundation, and are being released under the MIT license today.

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Apps to Help You Study

It seems that spring has finally arrived. It’s time for sunnier weather and baseball, but also those dreaded final exams. If you’re already feeling burned out, you may want to try a new approach to refresh your study habits. First, check out our Study Aid Guide. CALI Lessons and Digital Study Aid eBooks are available […]

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Amazon offers gift card credit plus $20 bonus for trading up to a newer Kindle

IMG_20160330_142615Is your e-ink Kindle getting a little long in the tooth? Maybe you have a Kindle sitting around somewhere that doesn’t even work anymore? If so, Amazon wants to try to get you to trade up to a newer one with its Kindle trade-in program.

Simply send in your Kindle and Amazon will assign you a gift card value based on the model and its condition. If your Kindle doesn’t work, or is a first- or second-generation model (including the Kindle DX) that does work, it will fetch you $5 on trade-in. Subsequent generations will fetch anywhere from $19 for the Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi up to $55 for the newest 3G Paperwhite, as long as they’re in good working order.

On top of that, Amazon will add a $20 bonus, which you can then apply toward the purchase of any Kindle e-reader sold directly by Amazon—the Kindle, the Paperwhite, the Voyage, or the Kindle for Kids bundle. You can use the gift card balance for any purchase, but the $20 bonus can only apply toward another Kindle (not a Fire). You can trade in up to five Kindles per customer and account, but only get one $20 bonus.

The offer runs through the end of 2016, and the $20 bonus credit has to be used by the end of February, 2017.

I’d consider trading in my old Kindle Touch, but Amazon may already have marked that one down as not working after my support experience trying to get it upgraded and it has a couple of marks on the screen acquired before I owned it, so I’d probably just end up getting $5 for it. Besides, given that my Paperwhite works just fine (even in the dark!), I don’t really need another Kindle right now.

But if you’ve been holding onto one of your older Kindles for a while, here’s your chance to get its trade-in value plus $20 toward a new one. And it’s a chance you’ll have all year, unless Amazon decides to end the program prematurely. Why not give it a shot?

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Toshiba dynaPad: The perfect paper notebook replacement for writing, ereading?

Toshiba dynaPadToshiba’s dynaPad WT12PE-A64 Signature Edition Tablet, which debuted exclusively on the Microsoft Store this January, is a highly specced, highly attractive Windows 10 tablet, at the not too dreadful price of $569.00. But it’s also an interesting essay in tablet design as an explicit replacement for paper notebooks for sketching and writing – and an attractive ereading device that could stand up pretty well alongside higher-end iPads.

“The world’s thinnest and lightest 12-inch Windows tablet” – according to the Toshiba blurb at least – “the dynaPad is ready to reinvent your work and play. It’s only 0.27 inches thin, weighs just over 1 pound, and comes with a highly sensitive TruPen stylus for writing, drawing, and jotting notes whenever and wherever inspiration strikes.” More details are available courtesy of the Toshiba launch release here.

As a Windows 10 device, the dynaPad has highly attractive specs: Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor, 4GB of memory, 64GB eMMC storage, two micro USB 2.0 ports, one Micro-HDMI port, WiFi and Bluetooth. micro SD slot, and Windows 10 Home. But its real differentiation is in the screen and the TruPen stylus, developed with Wacom technology. According to Toshiba, once again, “with 2,048 levels of pressure, the stylus delivers all the accuracy of pen on paper for superior accuracy and performance.” Meanwhile, “the 12-inch Full HD TruBrite IPS touchscreen has ultra-wide angles for viewing comfort and a high-precision surface for using the stylus.”

Toshiba previously made an impression in the onscreen writing/drawing area with its series of Encore 2 Write Windows 8.1 tablets, debuted at CES 2015 in both 8″and 10″ formats, with the TruPen stylus. Needless to say, though, Windows 8.1 was hardly the ideal OS for this format. With Windows 10, Toshiba is positioned to deliver a far better, more integrated Windows tablet experience.

Toshiba is clearly placing a lot of emphasis on the onscreen writing and drawing functions. “Precision digital inking technology is the next frontier of truly personal computing,” said Philip Osako, senior director of product marketing, Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., Digital Products Division, in Toshiba’s launch release. “Advances in engineering and pen technology have enabled us to create an amazingly thin and light tablet that’s ideal for instant creativity while also offering the versatility to immediately transition to a clamshell form factor for productivity. Toshiba dynaPad is the ultimate digital notebook.”

Personally, I’ve long been an onscreen writing advocate, and used a Fujitsu Windows tablet before the iPad even existed. Nowadays, though, with the iPad Pro out there as well as some very highly specced Android tablets, and the Apple Pencil, would I be inclined to pick the Toshiba dynaPad? Actually, the answer is probably yes. The device has received some good writeups elsewhere, especially in sites focused on tablets for artists, and although it’s not the most powerful machine ever, it does offer full Windows 10, with all the attendant versatility and backwards compatibility. The real obvious competitor is the Microsoft Surface Pro, but the dynaPad’s emphasis on excellent onscreen writing and drawing technology could give it the edge for some requirements – including mine. And that screen looks like a beaut for reading on.

As for the competition, the iPad Pro 12-inch is currently going for a minimum of $799.99 on Best Buy. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is retailing for $899 at the Microsoft Store. The Surface Pro 3 at $399 might be tempting, but it’s obviously not specced to anything like the same level as the dynaPad, and you have to buy the Surface Pen separately – and even then, this only offers 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, compared to the TruPen’s Wacom-powered 2,048 levels. I couldn’t possibly imagine the Surface Pro 3 as a serious laptop replacement, but I can easily see the dynaPad in that role. And it just so happens I need a new laptop, so …

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