February 17, 2018

How to create your own billion dollar cryptocurrency

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Everyone can create their own cryptocurrency - but not everyone can create their own cryptocurrency that's also worth billions of dollars, like bitcoin, which has a market value of USD 180 billion. A cryptocurrency closely related to bitcoin is bitcoin cash with a market value of USD 25 billion.

While researching the difference between bitcoin and bitcoin cash I discovered that one of the guys behind bitcoin cash is Rick Falkvinge. I'm Swedish, so I recognized him because a few years ago he created a political party called Piratpartiet (The Pirate Party), which used to be a big part of the Swedish political scene but has since then disappeared. What has he been doing since then?

It turned out that Rick Falkvinge has been buying bitcoin and then he created bitcoin cash because he disagreed with the developers of bitcoin. The main difference between his views and the views of bitcoin is that a cryptocurrency should be more decentralized. If you research bitcoin and bitcoin cash you realize that there's a small war going on between the believers in each cryptocurrency, so I'm not going to argue which one is the best because only time can answer that question.

If you research bitcoin cash, you will find a text written by Rick Falkvinge called Official Statement from the CEO of Bitcoin Cash. In it, he tells why a cryptocurrency should be developed like a swarm. A swarm? What is he talking about? Luckily, Rick Falkvinge has written a free book on the subject called Swarmwise: The tactical manual to changing the world. In it he tells the story of how he created Piratpartiet and why the political party disappeared and how you can create you own decentralized organization. These are the key concepts from the book:
  1. You need an idea that you know can work from a theoretically point-of-view. Be provocative. If you are not making somebody angry, you're probably not doing anything useful. 
  2. The idea has to generate enthusiasm on its own - no advertising campaign is needed. It should be enough to mention it to someone, but it needs to have a realistic, understandable goal that energize people to change the world for the better. It also need subgoals and you need to be able to measure the progress towards the goal and the subgoals.   
  3. People have short attention span, so you need to keep them interested by having a signup page or a forum where people can collaborate. This will make a structure so people can self-organize by doing tasks without first asking for permission, which is good because you can't control all parts of the swarm on your own. 
  4. As the swarm is organizing itself into different groups, you notice that each group gets a leader. Make sure to form a relationship with each leader. But remember that this leader is not a boss and can't thus give orders. What they should do is to communicate what should happen and start doing it and the people interested will follow automatically. If someone sees something they don't like, they should contribute with something they like, and not complain about what they don't like. You should celebrate if someone takes a risk but failed, and not criticize, because it will prevent people from trying new things.   
  5. To kickoff the swarm, all members should do some task, such as collecting signatures. This task has to be realistic and has to be a step closer to the goal. It will also get people to know each other. 
  6. The swarm will copy the behaviors of the leader, and yes the swarm needs a leader to inspire each other to greatness. The only way to have the swarm behave well is to behave well yourself by leading by example. To be able to lead by example you need to take care of yourself by sleeping and exercising. You also need to be honest, if the swarm is encountering trouble, be honest about it and suggest a solution to the problem.   
  7. As the swarm grows, you have to make sure that no self-organized group gets more than 150 people. If so, you need to create subgroups. The core group should consist of no-more than seven people, which is the optimal group size or the group will become too inefficient.
  8. Members of the swarm will translate your goal to their own goal. For example, the idea behind bitcoin is to create a decentralized currency, but some believe in bitcoin because they don't trust banks and others believe in bitcoin because a bitcoin transaction is less easier to track than a regular currency. This will make it easier to market the goal because the friends of the members of the swarm will listen more to their own friends than to you and your personal goal. 
  9. You need to make sure that the swarm is visible in the real world and not just online. For example, when you walk around you see shops that have put up stickers that they accept bitcoin. 
  10. Conflicts within the swarm will happen as the swarm develops. But you need to be aware that a small amount of conflict is a step of progress and it's a phase all groups have to go through before they become efficient. Also mistakes will happen, but even big companies make mistakes, and mistakes should be expected because you need these crazy ideas that often end up as mistakes as long as you learn from them. You should reward good behavior, such as initiatives or helping others, with attention and ignore bad behavior.  Also remember to have fun because people enjoy having fun and will join your swarm to have more fun.
  11. You need help of your swarm to recruit new people to the swarm. Members of the swarm have to talk with people they know. To make it easier you need a weekly newsletter to let people know what's going on. Make sure it's written so someone who's new to the swarm understand everything in it. When measuring new people you should not measure Twitter follower or Facebook likes, but people themselves. Many people on Twitter are not really interested in you, but in promoting themselves by following you.  
  12. You need to be able to activate the swarm when needed. The addition of 25 people from your swarm to a discussion on the Internet will convince someone who's just reading the discussion that your swarm's goal is something to follow. If you control the perception of who's the winning team, you become the winning team. It's important to note that the swarm should discuss the goal and not promote it - people don't need to see more ads. Neither should you forget the long-tail: even the smallest blogger is important and reward all people for their interest in your swarm and answer all comments, even if the comment is rude you need to be nice and polite.  
  13. Use old media like newspapers to your advantage. Make it as easy as possible for journalists to write articles by providing detailed press releases and photos. The long-term goal is that when journalists are writing an article about your goal, then they should write an article about you and not someone else. If the media starts to ridicule you then it's a good sign and a step forward from not being mentioned at all.
  14. Never take success for granted. When the swarm is successful, don't forget that success doesn't last. Just because you are popular today doesn't mean you have to be popular tomorrow. 

I think the ideas from the book are interesting and they are at least a starting point if you have your own currently worthless cryptocurrency. The ideas behind cryptocurrencies and decentralized organizations are new, so I guess we will see many more ideas on how to best grow such organizations.

February 12, 2018

Everyone wants to crash a Tesla

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This is just in! A big youtuber with 173 thousand subscribers has found my Tesla Simulator I made to learn Unity. The video has 55000 views and thousands of likes. He didn't call it a game - more of an experience which was funny, and he named it Tesla crashing simulator, which is what people seem to like about the game: destroy Teslas. But the Teslas in the game are indestructible so they will never stop. Anyway, check out the video and prepare to laugh.

February 11, 2018

The illusion of life - or why you should animate flour sacks

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The book The Illusion of Life tells the story of the beginnings of Disney Studios and the development of their animation process. What exactly made Disney's style unique? It is one of the books you have to read if you are interested in animation - not just animated drawings, but also if you are into 3d game animations. Here are some key points from the book:
  • Animation is not just timing, or just a well-drawn character, it is the sum of all factors named. What you as an animator are interested in is conveying a certain feeling you happen to have at that particular time. The response of the viewer is an emotional one, because art speaks to the heart. Our tools of communication are the symbols that everyone understands because they go back before mankind began talking. 
  • The animator is the actor in animated films. But animation is harder than acting. In animation we start with a blank piece of paper. Out of nowhere we have to come up with characters that are real, that live, that interrelate. We have to work up the chemistry between them, find ways to create the counterpart of charisma, have the characters move in a believable manner, and do it all with mere pencil drawings. 
  • Start the film with something the audience know and like. This can either be an idea of a character, as long as it is familiar and appealing. It can be a situation everyone has experienced, an emotionally reaction universally shared. But there must be something that is known and understood if the film is to achieve audience involvement. The mystery radio programs are good at this, using voices and sound effects that reach out to you. The broadcasts are projected through symbols into your imagination, and you make the situation real. It is not just what you hear, it is what the sounds make you believe and feel. It's not the actor's emotions you are sensing anymore - they are your emotions.  
  • For a character to be real, it must have a personality, and, preferably, and interesting one. The audience should identify with the story situation, and the best way is through a character who is like someone they have known. There should also be a change in the initial action that will enable the animator to show more than one side of this personality, like from concentration to rage.
  • Key animation principles:
    • Don't confuse them. Keep it simple.
    • Too much action spoils the acting.
    • Mushy action makes a mushy statement.
    • Say something. Be brave.
    • Why would anyone want to look at that?
  • Walt Disney himself was actually not a good animator. Animation was developed far more by the animators themselves than by Walt. But this advancement would never have occurred without Walt. Without Walt's drive, it is doubtful that any of the animators would have tried so hard or learned what to do.  
  • The best way to know if your animation is good is to test it on a real audience. 
  • Attitude can be achieved with the simplest of shapes. A flour sack is often used to illustrate this (the shape will change but the volume will always be the same). This idea is used by animators today as well as you can see if you click on this link:

  • The fundamental principles of animation are:
    • Squash and stretch. What you are animating should change shape, as in the flour bag example.
    • Anticipation. Before what you are animating is doing something, it should be shown what you are animating is about to do.
    • Staging. The audience should clearly see what you are animating.
    • Straight ahead action or pose to pose. This is about how you plan the animation. In the first case you make it up as you go, and in the second case you first create key poses and then fill in the animation between the poses. 
    • Follow through and overlapping action. This is about the end of the animation. The idea here is that things after a movement don't come to a stop all at once, some parts of the character may stop later. And you also have to make sure it merges with the next animation. 
    • Slow in and slow out. The focus should be on the key parts of the animation, so a character should move slowly into the key position, and then move slowly away from the key position, and then fast between the key positions. Too much of this will produce a mechanical feeling, so you have to analyze the actions more carefully if that happens.  
    • Arcs. The movement of living creatures will follow arcs and not straight lines.  
    • Secondary action. The main idea of the animation can be amplified by adding a second animation, such as wiping away a tear. 
    • Timing. Each inbetween frame between the same extreme key frames gives a new meaning to the action. No frames inbetween can mean that the character has been hit by a large force, while more frames can mean the character is sneaking. 
    • Exaggeration. Realism is not the goal because it's sometimes difficult to understand if a character that is "realistically" sad is sad. But if you exaggerate and make a sad character sadder, the audience will easier understand that the character is sad. One animator at Disney made an animation so exaggerated that he thought he would get fire, but Walt loved it. 
    • Solid drawing. You should learn to draw as well as possible before starting to animate. The better you can draw, the easier it is to animate. 
    • Appeal. The audience should obviously enjoy what you are animating. 
  • Norm Ferguson, one of the animators and who gave Pluto his character, had no formal art training, which was good because he was not following anatomy and drawing rules. One of the other animators said "He doesn't know that you can't raise the eyebrows above the head circle, so he goes ahead and does it and it gives a great effect."
  • Always analyze and observe. One of the animators could simply not stop observing how the real world worked. This is one of the reasons Leonardo da Vinci became a good painter - he always brought a notebook with him and he could even invite people to his house to easier observe them. 
  • As said before, realism is not the goal. Great fiction is art and invention, not duplicated reality: 
    • Things should happen faster than in real life.
    • You want to make things more interesting and more unusual. 
    • The actors should be more rehearsed than everyday people, opening a door should be as simple as possible.
    • The actors thought process should be quicker and their uninteresting progression from one situation to another must be skipped. 
  • Every animator has ups and down. To find inspiration again you can look at magazines and at drawings by animators whose techniques is different from yours. Every animator is also making mistakes. "Everybody knows that! I shouldn't make a mistake like that. It's just because you always forget something! I ought make a sign and stick it up in front of me on the desk so I never make that mistake again."
  • People love to see thinking characters. You should do this by changing the expression of the character.  
  • If you want to make great animations you should observe and study and make your characters different and unique - instead of cloning a similar character over and over again. No two scenes should ever be alike and no two characters should ever do something the same way. Frequently, some animator will animate not something he has observed, but something he has memorized that some other animator has done. 
  • When animating you should avoid writing what you will animate, you should draw what you will animate by making a storyboard. 
  • Extreme action is best illustrated by minimizing background elements, and other things that would draw attention away from the action. 
  • One quick look is all the audience gets - keep it simple, direct, like a poster; it must sell an idea.
  • If you are stuck, you can act out the seen yourself or have someone do it for you. Disney animators had assistants who acted out scenes, so they could see how the scene looked and determine the best angle for drawing it.
  • It takes 1.5 years to learn the basic fundamentals of animation and another 5 to 6 years to be at all skillful. 
  • Every animation is a new animation. Someone outside the studio once stated that it was easy for Disney to make a film now that they had done so many. Their reply was: "On every picture, you're in a learning process. It's not so much an application of professional knowledge as constantly learning. It is always new, or it had better be. On each film, you start from scratch, make the mistakes, pick yourself up time and time again, yet never give up. You must keep your belief in the picture and your faith in yourself. For a picture to end up good, it must be treated like it was the very first one you ever made."
  • It's important that the background is the background. There should be nothing behind the animated figures that distracts in any way. Too much detail, busy shapes, eye-catching forms are all confusing; too much color, too much dark and light pattern, colors that conflict with the figures are all disturbing. 
  • At the end of a cartoon movie, it's common to see how the camera zooms out and pulls up, showing more and more of the sky. The reason the camera is pulling up is because it was difficult to animate how the character became smaller and smaller, so they had to remove the character and instead show the sky.
  • To make you animation feel alive you have to add sound. Sometimes you have to add sound to something that doesn't make a sound. Disney had to test several alternatives before they found the sound of a spider web shimmering with dew and the sound of a magnet. 
  • When using photos and video as reference, you can't always copy what you see. A work of art is never a copy. For it to have meaning to people of many generations and cultures, it must have the personal statement of an artist. Michelangelo's famous statue of David would be a strange looking character if you met him walking down the street. According to this source, David's:
    • Upper-body and head are bigger on purpose, to account from viewing his statue from afar and from below.
    • Right hand is bigger than the left, probably to draw attention to the stone as a symbol of his courage and physical power.
    • Eyes are not looking in the same direction.
  • When learning to draw anything, it's important that the artist go to the source. If Disney artists were going to animate a fox, they would try to get a real fox to study - photographs and videos are not enough. They could even use animals that had been found dead, although not all were interested in study the animal after a few days as the body had started to decompose. Nothing matches the learning that comes from feeling an animal's bones and muscles and joints, to discover how they are put together and how far they can move in any direction. You also have to study what attitudes and actions are unique to the fox. What makes this animal a fox?
  • Some animations are difficult to draw, such as the antlers belonging to a deer. What the animators at Disney did was to either film it and then trace it on the paper, or build an antler model, and trace it by having the antlers behind a piece of glass.
  • Avoid dialogue. Instead you should use an expression, action, sound effect, or music. The audience wants to see what is going to happen and the dialogue should only fortify and sharpen the story and personalities. It is not enough if the character is saying it's angry - you also have to show it so the audience if also feeling that the character is angry.  

January 25, 2018

A comparison between Bitcoin crashes

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Update! Because of the popularity and to make it easier to add updates, I've moved the charts (and added new ones) to here: Bitcoin price charts

If you study the history of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin you realize that Bitcoin has been a really rough ride since it was launched around 2009. If you haven't studied the history of Bitcoin you should read the book Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper which covers events up to 2014, so you have to google the rest. If you google you will see that Bitcoin reached a price of around $20000 in December and has been falling since. You keep seeing comments that Bitcoin is a bubble and this is a crash.

But listening to comments by random people on the Internet is not always a good idea. A better idea is to use data and study what has happened before. The data I found is from Coindesk and ranges from 2010 up to today. It consists of one price during the day and not necessarily the highest or lowest price during the day, but that's not a big deal if you look at the price in a wider perspective. If you look at all the data you can clearly see that it looks like the classic bubble chart.


But if you study the history of Bitcoin you learn that bubbles have happened before, so I thought it could be interesting to compare this crash with old crashes. How bad can it get? During this period I identified three major crashes, the longest lasted more than 400 days. There are also several smaller crashes where the price fell like 40 percent but the chart will become too messy if I include all ups and down.


If you study historical crashes you see that the "crash" beginning in December 2017 is dwarfed by the major historical crashes. So from a historical point of view, the price could fall with more than 90 percent and still recover. Will it? No-one knows!

December 31, 2017

Books I read in 2017

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Each year I write a list of books I read during the year. This is the 2017 list:
  1. The art of game design. A book about how to design games.
  2. Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture. Is a biography on John Carmack and John Romero, who created the popular games Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake.
  3. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why. The book will tell you what's happening with your body when a disaster is happening to you. Examples of disasters in the book includes 9/11 (both what was going on in the heads of the people in the buildings and in the airplanes), Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Tsunami, a restaurant on fire, the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, and crowd crushes during the pilgrimage to Islam's holy places in Saudi Arabia. So how do you survive a disaster? The basic idea is that you should be prepared and learn what's going on in your body when a disaster is happening.
  4. We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang - The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. The book is describing the battle famous from the movie with the same name. If you saw the movie, you should still read the book because a lot in a Hollywood movie is different from what really happened.
  5. The new drawing on the rights side of the brain. If you can't draw pictures you should read this book. The basic idea is that those who suck at drawing are drawing objects, while those who are good at drawing are drawing shapes. The easiest way to draw shapes and not objects is to turn whatever you are drawing upside down. Now your brain won't recognize what you are seeing making it much easier to draw shapes.
  6. Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down. Is a book about how you can design machines and buildings so they don't fall down. It's not a book you should read if you want to learn how to actual design so things don't break - the purpose of the book is to give an overview of the area, but it includes some formula you may use but no examples how to use the formulas. But the book is filled with interesting examples of how structures historically have failed.
  7. Helicopter flying handbook. Is a free book written by the US Department of Transportation and is a handbook written mainly for those who want to become helicopter pilots. It will tell you all about aerodynamics, flight controls, systems, performance, flight maneuvers, emergencies, how to operate a helicopter in different weather conditions, and so on.
  8. Unity 5.x Shaders and Effects Cookbook - Master the art of shader programming to bring life to your Unity projects. This book will teach you about shaders. It will not teach you everything about shaders, but if you are using it together with other shader resources you will learn a lot, including how to write a fur shader.
  9. Low level hell - A scout pilot in the Big Red One. Is a biography on and by Hugh Mills who flew a scout helicopter in the Vietnam war.
  10. Chickenhawk. Is a true story written by Robert Mason, who was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam war. The battle dramatized in the movie We Were Soldiers was one of the battles he participated in. This book is considered being a handbook for helicopter pilots all over the world. 
  11. Troop Leader: A Tank Commander's Story. A biography on a tank commander in the battle for Europe in 1944 and 1945.
  12. Ambush Alley: The Most Extraordinary Battle of the Iraq War. Tells the story of a one-day battle in the 2003 Iraq war. If you have seen the television series Generation Kill, and remember when they are driving on a bridge and are seeing a burned out military vehicle, that vehicle was destroyed in this battle.
  13. Game Feel: A Game Designer's Guide to Virtual Sensation. Some games just feel better than other games, and this book is trying to figure out why.
  14. Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam. Tells the story of when Iran took the American embassy as hostage.
  15. The New Science of Strong Materials or Why You Don't Fall Through the Floor. Is closely connected with the above "Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down" but is more about the history of materials used in engineering applications. 
  16. The word of Notch. Is a pdf version of Notch's blog. Notch is the guy who came up with the idea behind one of the world's most popular games: Minecraft. 
  17. The Timeless Way of Building. If you have read this book you have learned a new way to think about architecture - why are some buildings "better" than other? The answer is that you should use patterns when designing a building. 
  18. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Is written by the same author as The Timeless Way of Building, but includes examples of patterns discussed in that book. I believe the guy who invented the popular game SimCity read this book and came up with the idea for that game. 
  19. John Carmack Archive - Interviews. Free book consisting of interviews with John Carmack, who created the games Doom and Quake.
  20. Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization. Tells the history of the chicken.
  21. Rush to Glory: Formula 1 Racing's Greatest Rivalry. Tells the story of the Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt.
  22. Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. Is written by Howard Schultz, who bought a company called Starbucks that was selling coffee beans, and decided that Starbucks should also sell coffee drinks. 
  23. Uncommon grounds - The history of coffee and how it transformed our world. Tells the history of coffee.
  24. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter. Includes a lot of information about color and light mostly aimed for painters, but 3d artists will also find it useful. For example, the author argues that using only photos as references is not a good idea because a photo is not an accurate representation of the real world. For example, colors and shadows tend to be different in a photo, so you also have to go out into the real world.  
  25. Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. Everything you need to know about chickens.
  26. Computational Geometry: Algorithms and Applications. A book on how to triangulate points, how to generate convex hulls, etc. 
  27. Leonardo da Vinci. Written by the same guy who wrote the official Steve Jobs biography.
  28. A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable. Tells the story of the first telegraph cable from UK to USA.
  29. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Tells the history of the container.
  30. Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. Tells the story, from a UN perspective, of the 1994 civil war in Rwanda.
  31. The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914. As the title says, it tells the story of the construction of the canal between the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean.