Category Archives: The Geek Corner

Cosplay : a brief introduction

Hyrule warriors’ group : Joshua Yip, Carol Fairbanks, Kaarowl,Zach Wood,Puns and Needles Cosplay, and Caroline L. Clutterbuck, by Mineralblu – PAX South Convention, San Antonio, Texas, USA
  • What is “cosplay” ?

Cosplay is a Japanese word コスプレ (kosupure) coming from the contraction of two English terms : costume and role-play. This is a hobby in which participants called “cosplayers” wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character. Those characters could come from manga, anime, comics, films, video-games and so more.


Even if “cosplay” is a Japanese term, it originally was an American hobby called ‘costuming’ where the main subjects in 1908 were the Mr-Skygack-from-Mars ‘s character from Armundo Dreisbach -A.D. Condo’s science-fiction comic. But the first apparition of costuming dates back to the “futuristicostume” of Forest J Ackerman during the first World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in 1939, New-York, USA. The word cosplay appears many years later during the 1984 WorldCon in Los Angeles. Japanese Nobuyuki Takahashi of Studio Hard who was impressed by the hall and the costumed fans, reported in the magazine My Anime where the two terms “costume” and “play” became コス (kosu) and プレ (pure). Cosplay was born.


  • Cosplay today

Today’s cosplay is more related to its Japanese “origin”. Since the 2000’s, cosplay’s popularity has increased with the spread of anime and manga worldwide and the multiplication of conventions. But the trends are also following the development of video-games and the international success of some films such as Star Wars, The Lord of the Ring or the Marvel’s films. This is why we can find cosplayers in all kinds of conventions.


Cosplay in Japan

In Japan, what actually matters in cosplay is ‘appearance’. Japanese often buy their costume. This subculture is a true business, with a lot of shops selling costumes, wigs, accessories…

That explains the complete lack of cosplay contest in the country. During conventions, cosplayers are not allowed to move around, except if they don’t stop for photos not to disturb non-cosplayer visitors. They are supposed to stay where they are told to.

The only cosplay contest in Japan is the World Cosplay Summit which is an international contest. As the other contests around the world, the cosplay must be totally hand-made, from the little accessory to the huge weapon without forgetting sewing the  dress.

Winners of World Cosplay Summit 2015 – Mexican team, Legend of Zelda : Majora’s Mask

Cosplay in Western culture

In North America and Europe, cosplay is more about performance and acting. One of the most significant things about it is the hand-made costume … Costumes which have been bought are completely banned from contests and the market of cosplay is mostly based on wigs and crafting materials such as fabrics, worbla, EVA foam, …

Contrary to Japan, western countries’ conventions welcome the cosplayers which are now a huge part of the animation. Visitors often come to take photos and to watch the numerous contests. In those contest, the cosplayers are judged according to their acting, the quality of their hand-made cosplay. As said before, bought costumes are banned, and the cosplayers wearing those are called hall-cosplayers and are definitely apart from classic cosplayers.

Virtual Reality

During the Mobile World Congress (Barcelona), Samsung released its new flagship : The Galaxy S7 ; this phone is bundled with a Virtual Reality headset which enables new applications and experience for games or videos.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was invited on stage, following his recent acquisition of Oculus, a company specialized in Virtual Reality Headsets and that co-develops the Samsung product. He said that VR is the “most social platform”, as its development will be boosted by users themselves, by replacing selfies by 360 degrees immersive photos.

But how do those headsets work ?

Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that he feels like he is in a real environment. On a computer, virtual reality is primarily experienced through two senses: sight and sound.

Nowadays, me mostly find Virtual Reality headsets, such as for instance the Oculus Rift that I’ve already mentioned. Those products are built by assembling circular lenses in front of a high-resolution screen that is a few centimeters away from your eyes. The goal is to immerse the user into a virtual world. Some sensors are embedded in the headset to detect head movements in order to adapt the content displayed on the screen.

Another way to do it is with a smartphone. Recently, Google released a cardboard that folds up into kinds of glasses. The main advantage is that it is very cheap.

Samsung’s concept is a mix between those two solutions, as it needs a smartphone as a screen but provides additional sensors and buttons.

hero                                       one-cardboard.png

What are the usages of Virtual Reality ?

There are numerous ways virtual reality can be used. It applies to differents fields such as : Gaming, Education, Healthcare, and so on ! Let me give you a few examples.

First of all, immersiveness is really great in first-person games, as we see through the player’s eyes. It’s sometimes combined with a sort of platform where you can actually walk, go different directions, to copy players’ movements in the game. Not to mention that similar system are being used by military forces to train.

For entertainment purposes, it is possible to play 3D movies with those headset. It gives you the impression to be in front of a huge TV ! The problem is … the limitation to one user at a time. Another usage is with 360 degrees videos. YouTube offers it since a couple of month, it works great with a mice or with a smartphone, but it’ll be better with a VR compatible product.

Virtual reality could also serve as a tool for rehabilitation. Stroke and brain injury victims can now use an immersive virtual-reality therapy. The virtual exercises and real-time feedback are made to feel like games, helping to motivate patients to practise everyday activities.

Last but not least, VR is being used in museums or classes to teach history. In fact, it is possible to recreate in 3 dimensions some parts of the world as they used to be in the past and to discover them as if we’re here ! Exciting isn’t it ?

Future of virtual reality

We may assume that 2016 will be the year of Virtual Reality. It’s going to be a mainstream technology by the end of the year or so. Yet the prices are still pretty high, but with the demand, it’s going to decrease.

Are you willing to get yourself a VR Headset ? Let a comment in the section bellow !

Silicon Valley History

You may have already heard about this southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area, famous for the ITs corporations that settled there , but do you know its history ?


First of all, about the name : The term originally comes from the many innovators and manufacturers that were building chips out of silicon. But now it means all the high-tech businesses in the area. Even though it’s not truly a valley, it is a term for the high-tech sector generally.


During the 19th century it was only a fruit-growing area, we may wonder how does it became one of the most attractive place for high tech companies.

Large freeways curl through the city April, 2000 in San Jose, CA. San Jose is experiencing a boom due to the large number of high-tech companies in the region, which is known as Silicon Valley. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)

381078 15: Large freeways curl through the city April, 2000 in San Jose, CA. San Jose is experiencing a boom due to the large number of high-tech companies in the region, which is known as Silicon Valley. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)

The key figure in this development was Frederick Terman, a professor from Stanford University in the 30s, who encourages his students to start business locally, and not to move on the East Coast. The first two graduates to start were William Hewlett and David Packard, with the company name after them : “HP”, which is a large company nowadays.


In this capacity he continued to encourage the development of local businesses in electronics and attracted venture capitals to invest in the area.


Then, in 1968, the Intel business started, they were manufacturing memory chips, and microprocessors. Those components were made of silicon, which inspired Don Hoefler, a journalist from a local newspaper, who eventually nicknamed the region “Silicon Valley” in one of his articles.


From the 70s to the 90s, more and more software development company invaded the area, and innovation was at its maximum. As an example, Xerox Research center played a major role in the development of Object Oriented Programming, or Graphical User Interface.


Those inventions led indirectly to other companies such as Apple or Microsoft. In fact, the Macintosh GUI was a result of a Steve Jobs visit at Xerox.


That was just before the Internet bubble, which started in quickly after the opening of Internet to commercial use. Companies such as Amazon or Ebay were then created.



Crypt of the Necrodancer

Title: Crypt of the NecroDancer

Genre: Action, Indie, RPG

Developer:Brace Yourself Games

Publisher: Brace Yourself Games, Klei Entertainment       

Release Date: 23 Apr, 2015

Mix music, dance, challenge in a videogame and you obtain “Crypt of the Necrodancer”. It is an indie hardcore roguelike rhythm game developed and edited by Brace Yourself Games, released on 23 April 2015. So, you play an heroine called “Cadence” in randomly generated dungeons. She is looking for her missing father who was searching the “Golden Lute” when she fell on rocks in the “Crypt”. However, the “Necrodancer” saved her by cursing her, stealing her heart and forcing her to move to the beat of the music. Thus, she decided to go deeper into the “Crypt”, trying to find her father and a way to get rid of her curse. The story is not that important but it is very cool and well written.


So why am I talking about “Crypt of the Necrodancer”. It’s because it is very special game. Its gameplay is unique. As I said before, your character, “Cadence”, is in a dungeon designed in pixel art. The goal is to reach the exit of each level but it is not that easy : you have to slain many enemies, avoid many traps plus face difficult bosses. The brilliant idea is that you control “Cadence” only with the arrow keys and have to move to the beat of the music. Moreover, enemies move also to the music. If you want to slain a monster, you need to move towards it and avoid being hurt when or if you move onto a tile where the enemy is going or attacking. It seems very complex but it is not. Because each monster has a unique pattern and you can’t stop moving to the music, you have the feeling that you are dancing around the enemies. Consequently, the game becomes very addictive and mesmerizing. I actually surprised myself doing things in rhythm after playing the game because I had been totally absorbed and focused.


I almost forgot to mention the amazing music by Danny Baranowsky. He did a really great job composing about thirty unique tracks. There are metal, rock, electronic songs which are all epic.


Now, you probably want to join the adventure too but I need to warn you. “Crypt of the Necrodancer” is a hard game. It is hard…but not unfair. You will have to learn how the game works and maybe die a lot but it won’t be frustrating, believe me. It is a part of the game which gives it a an additional charm.

To conclude, I would say that  “Crypt of the Necrodancer” is a rare gem which I discovered six months ago and which I highly recommend to all the people who want to live a unique experience through a video game.

Flexible OLED display, the future of mobile phones?

After successfully reducing the thinness of screens to almost an inch, also making them more convenient than those old Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors we used to know, IT companies are setting up a new challenge to themselves :  to invent a display that could actually  bend like paper, allowing readers to wrap it up around their arm like a bracelet or like a telescope. It has been made possible with the invention of flexible OLED displays.


But what are OLED displays ?

OLED stands for Organic light-emitting diode. It is a film of organic compound that emits light when an electric current cross it. This film is situated between 2 layers of electrodes with at least one is transparent.


schela bilayer OLED

Schematic of a bilayer OLED (source :


This technology is frequently used to create digital displays such as television or computer screens, mobile phones and game consoles. It is not so expensive and lightweight, so it is used more and more to build low-cost displays.

Flexible OLED are similar to standard  OLED display, except that they are not built on a glass substrate, but on a flexible plastic that allows to bend them.


The idea of creating a flexible display was first put forth by Xerox PARC in 1974. An employee produced the first flexible e-paper display (a display that mimics the appearance of ink on a paper).

Then, in 2005, HP and ASU (Arizon State University) started research about flexible display.

Since 2010, Sony Electronics, AU Optronics and LG Electronics have expressed interest in this technology. For now on, only LG have announced plans for mass production of flexible displays.


An exemple of e-paper (source :


Prototypes :

Currently there only are prototypes of devices using flexible OLED technology. Here are two of the most advanced ones.


In January 2013, Samsung officially announced the launch of their flexible OLED display technology, called YOUM display. They also previewed several prototypes using it, such as the Samsung Galaxy Round mobile phone that was just launched on 9 Oct. in Korea. It is not possible to actually bend the phone, but the flexibility of the screen allows the phone to be curved in such position.

Another unnamed prototype extends the screen to the side of the phone. With this additional “strip”, it could be possible to display information such as notifications or emails with closing apps or opening the case covering the screen.

prototype samsung

A prototype of Samsung Galaxy Note edge (source :



At Consumer Electronics Show CES 2013 LG introduced curved OLED television. This 55” prototype, which looks like a cinema screen, is really thin (7.56″) and is also 3D capable.

In August this year, they also presented a paper-thin (1mm thick) television than can be bent. It is attachable to magnetic surfaces on curved walls.



The Switch, Netflix and chill

Have you ever dreamed of throwing your shoes into the corner of the room, jumping in your couch and doing nothing else than enjoying your evening. Netflix may have the answer and it is call The Switch!

Superman has the power to turn on Netflix, dim the light, order food and silence all his devices at once, we get it. But can you do the same? You couldn’t until now! Netflix has presented a switch that may sound a little magical, but it’s in fact a simple DIY remote that can do almost anything at once.

Simple… how simple exactly?” No more than switching the light on! Basically, it is a single-button remote that can connect to any IR (infra-red) or Wi-Fi devices. You only have to press, and relax. I see you coming: “How can one single button do all of this?” Well, nothing magical here. There is a small electronic circuit inside that gives a succession of orders. And that is the DIY part.

You said DIY?” That’s the best part; you can do your own at home! But first of all, you should know your basics in electronics and programming. Read the manual written by Netflix (here) and be creative. Each TV has their remote, and each home has their own Netflix Switch! It is unique to your need and to your devices. If you are interested, you shall find the pieces (here).

Sounds pretty good, but is there a catch? In fact, there may be a problem, depending on your devices: you must have a fully connected house. Remember, the switch works like a Wi-Fi remote. If you want to do everything I mentioned, you’ll need to have Wi-Fi connected light bulbs (such as Philips Hue’s smart LED lightbulbs), a new connected TV…

 You’ll also need an always-on machine, a small computer (a Raspberry Pi for example) that will serve as a node between all your devices.

It is an excellent idea that Netflix had with the Switch, but it might be complicated work, and it sure will be expensive if you do not have the proper equipment. But it is also quite the bucket of gold at the end of the DIY rainbow.

Quentin Fournier

Source: Netflix

Satellites: fun targets for hackers!

Many hackers love breaking into computers and servers all around the world. These attacks are terrifying, but exciting at the same time. But it becomes really more impressive when hackers do their stuff in sensitive places. In late September 2014, a US weather system was hacked during a short period. Classic, isn’t it ? Actually, it was a full satellite network that was hacked for two full days.


Continue reading Satellites: fun targets for hackers!

World Of Warcraft : Warlords Of Draenor is out !

A major event in the MMORPG world took place yesterday at the time of this writing. At 00:01 AM as the European servers braced themselves for an intense stress-test, thousands of players discovered the new contents of the fifth World Of Warcraft expansion to date. To those of you who lived under a rock for the last ten years or so, World of Warcraft is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game and in fact, it is the biggest and most successful one that’s ever existed. Boasting a huge player base of 7.4 million players across the world, World Of Warcraft (or WoW for short) is simply the MMORPG of the last decade and you have probably heard of it at least once in your life. The game is actively developed by videogame industry giant Blizzard Entertainment and has been subject to numerous enhancements throughout the years since its debut back in 2004.

Giant battleaxe impaled into a taxi in Time Square in celebration of the WoD release
Giant battleaxe impaled into a taxi in Time Square in celebration of the WoD release

With this new expansion, Blizzard hopes to draw more players (back) into the Warcraft universe and counter the steady decline in population that it underwent as a result of fresher MMORPGs being graced upon avid gamers recently. To this effect and certainly not to everyone’s satisfaction, Blizzard has already made several changes in the past such as Free-to-Play™ content until level 20, oversimplified game mechanics compared to early versions, better graphics and reduced difficulty in general. Warlords Of Draenor follows the trend as it reduces the number of skills available to characters, raises the level cap to 100, brings more balance to the game and introduces a whole new continent and more detailed character models.

It is probably too early to speculate on whether WoD will be a success or a letdown, but judging by the previews and early feedback that I could collect, and the oversized marketing campaign led by Blizzard, it seems that the odds are on the company’s side this time. Nevertheless, and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t played WoW in a long time and when I last did, it was around version 1.12 (current version is 6.0.3). Back then the game was a real challenge and you took pride in battling your way to level 60, which could take up to several months. Nowadays with instant level 90, automatic dungeon finder and insane damage figures, one could legitimately wonder what’s left of the challenge there once was in this mythical game.

Wait and see…

Tetris: the movie

Movies such as Prince of Persia, Resident Evil and Need for Speed have been doing extremely well lately, making hundreds of millions of dollars at the box-office. That’s the smartest way Hollywood has found to make big hits, and of course big money. And movies based on video games have almost become a new genre.

Actually, for movie companies it’s easier to sell a movie with pre-existing characters and stories that  audiences are already familiar with. But what about a completely abstract game without characters and without a plot? Threshold Entertainment Group, the production company that turned the Mortal Kombat video-game into films, recently came with a strange idea and annouced plans to make a new movie based on the legendary puzzle game ‘Tetris’. This is a marketing ploy as Tetris celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year.

Tetris’ importance is undeniable as a video game but the idea it could function as a movie is not obvious. “Everyone knows that Tetris is one of the best known, most beloved brands in the world,” said Threshold chairman Larry Kasanoff, producer of the movie. “What everyone doesn’t know yet is this epic sci-­fi story that we’re going to tell. That’s what’s really exciting.”

So it will be a sci-fi movie, but no more information has been leaking for the moment. This raises some questions: Will the famous shapes, called “Tetriminos” be really featured on screen? If so, will they be a danger ? Or is the story based on Tetris geek players ? The people at Tetris remain purposedly mysterious: the release has to be a surprise. According to Kasanoff “This isn’t a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We’re not giving feet to the geometric shapes.”

What’s interesting here is the way cinema has become a business beyond simply selling movies. Kasanoff has understood it, “Brands are the new stars of Hollywood”. All is about marketing. Latest example, the Lego movie has been a success because children knew the building game. And lots of movie companies make contracts to place products, even though it doesn’t yield so much to the production. Movies are becoming products. It’s becoming more and more common to buy children by-products of their favorite characters. So much that some fiction characters become actual brands. Mickey Mouse is now a major selling brand.

So we can say the concept of a Tetris movie follows the trend of product placement. Of course, nowadays this video game is more than a brand, it’s a part of our collective knowledge. As Tetris company’s Henk Rogers said : “What started as a simple, computer puzzle game 30 years ago, today is part of our global consciousness, connecting people of all ages and backgrounds and feeding our innate desire to create order out of chaos” . But cinema is a mirror, a media that talks to us about our world and our time. So what to think of this movie project ? Are we now living in a time when brands, such as Tetris, are the true main characters ? For now it’s hard to know if that movie is an original idea or a simple marketing trick. But time will probably tell.


When programmers have fun

Contrary to popular belief, programmers and geeks alike have a great sense of humor. As you will see in this short article, when a programmer is fed up with coding and gets loose, the results can be quite spectacular. Such programmer jokes inserted into software are often referred to as “Easter eggs”. If you’re a regular Linux user, you might already know a few Easter eggs from the apt-get or the cowsay commands, but some Easter eggs are much more imaginative.

Behold the sl (Steam Locomotive) command which, when typed in a terminal, shows an animated ASCII train crossing the console window. This could be a nice trick to confuse people who mistype the ls command intending to list the contents of the working directory (students from the INFO department for example).

Nice train isn’t it?

sl is available on GitHub and was last updated in July 2014. Its author says it is both a way to “cure your bad habit of mistyping” and ‘a joke command, not useful at all”. I’m not really sure it makes you type better, but it sure makes you laugh though.

Next up in the half-useless Linux tools category is WeatherSpect, a weather application that pulls its data from the Weather Underground API and displays it as an ASCII animation (sun, snow, rain…), with the addition of random objects such as an elephant, a bunny or a horse. As if it weren’t enough already, WeatherSpect author Kirk Baucom also wrote ASCIIQuarium, a perl script simulating an aquarium in ASCII art. And as always with opensource software, ASCIIQuarium was forked into several projects, such as a live android wallpaper or a screen saver for the Windows operating system… Here’s what the original ASCIIQuarium output looks like:

Underwater ASCII mess

Every bit of the animated “image” being a colored ASCII character, we see rather easily what the author had to go though in order to create this little piece of software. Some people obviously don’t have anything else to do…

NetHack, the amazing opensource Role-Playing Game from 1987

It is undeniable that video games have become immensely popular in the last decade. Be it an FPS, an MMORPG or a more casual smartphone app, lots of people play games to escape their daily routine and just have fun for a little while. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on roguelikes, a very special kind of opensource game you’ve probably never heard about.

To introduce the topic, I shall begin with a brief recap of what opensource means, and how it can benefit software development and games in particular. We’ll then look into the well-known and iconic roguelike called NetHack (which has absolutely nothing do to with hacking computers). If any of the above is relevant to you, then read on!

To begin with, what exactly is opensource? To cut a long story short, opensource (in a computer context) is a software movement born in the early eighties and whose intent is to encourage developers to share the source code of their software. By doing that, they are essentially prompting other developers to reuse and make changes to their code in order to improve it. Not only does this accelerates software development, but it also yields much better project longevity through forks. Forking allows developers to build upon existing projects with virtually no restriction, whereas commercial software is “locked” and the source code dies with the software or the platform it runs on. This obviously applies to video games too: some can’t be played today because they simply won’t run at all on modern operating systems or hardware. For these reasons, opensource appears really attractive as a lasting software development model. With this rather simplistic definition in mind, let’s move on to the flagship game of opensource UNIX RPGs:


NetHack has been around since 1987 and has been continuously updated by various contributors since its debut. Its text-only ASCII “graphics” might shock the uninitiated, but the game’s complexity is simply unmatched. Indeed, do you know of any other game where opening a tin can has a probability of greasing your hands and making you drop your weapon on the ground? I simply don’t. NetHack and similar games are called “roguelikes” because they are based on an even earlier and influential game from 1980 called Rogue. Rogue was the first computer game to feature a randomized, Fantasy-themed dungeon where death is permanent. Its turn-based and unpredictable nature allows for endless variations of strategies and experiences. Furthermore, roguelikes and NetHack in particular, are extremely hard to complete. The game has you venture through about fifty primary dungeon levels filled with monsters, traps and treasures. A player wins when he manages to get to the deepest level to fetch a special amulet, and climbs back alive to the first level. It may seem simple, yet be assured that NetHack is hardly forgiving: food is rare and you will die if you don’t eat, act against your god and you’ll be struck by thunder, or drink a city fountain dry and the guards will tear you apart… Ghosts of your dead characters from previous games can even spawn and attack you! I’ve been playing this game scarcely for more than two years now and I’ve yet to go below level fifteen. In this game you will simply die hundreds of times before ascending successfully and that’s if you don’t give up first.