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Breaking the fourth wall with Minecraft (hashbang.gr)
367 points by gebe on Nov 23, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

> I have a couple of WiFi-enabled bulbs near me, wouldn't it be nice to be able to control them using Minecraft?

I mean nothing against the author and like-minded individuals and I have the utmost respect for people with such a "tinkerer" mindset, but often reading things like this on Hacker News makes me feel like a bit of a fraud, because my internal answer to the question above is basically "No, not really". I'm wondering if others feel the same way. Does it make me less of a "hacker"? I enjoy programming, sometimes I wonder how things work, but oftentimes I don't mind that it is abstracted from me and "just works", and I rarely if ever have the urge to integrate two seemingly unrelated things to create a unique hack.

I completely agree with your statement. I too have very little interest in hooking light bulbs up to Minecraft, or anything but a socket already there. I enjoy my job and find solving programming problems challenging and rewarding.

My own feeling is that there is no better or worse, and feeling bad questioning if we're good enough is ridiculous. If one wants to hack on light bulbs that's great! If they'd rather go for a bike ride, that's great too! There's a quote from Winnie the Pooh that speaks to this equivalency.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.”

That doesn't make you a fraud. That just means you have different interests. I personally thought this was mildly amusing. I'm not sure that the author intended much more than that either.

There's a pattern in your comment that is a little more troubling though. Did you mean to imply that you feel like you should be a "hacker"? If so, I'd question the intrinsic value of being a "hacker" as opposed to a generally curious person who has his own interests and disinterests.

Controlling a lamp isn't very useful on it's own, but it's a good simple proof of concept for tying in-game mechanisms to internet-connected resources. Step 2 is getting an external event to have an effect in-game. Once you have that, you can start building VR interfaces to the real world.

It doesn't make you a fraud. Things like this are obviously done simply for fun, and not everyone will find exactly the same things fun.

I hear you. But my kids would FLIP if they could control lights in our house from a Minecraft world :)

This is a perfect response because it exemplifies the importance of relevance in what excites you.

If you don't play MC already or have no friends/family interested in the game, then a project like this would seem quite boring.

Agreed! My son would completely lose his shit if I showed him how to do this. I'm putting those globes on the xmas list.

The epitome of the fad of integrating two seemingly unrelated things that somebody else made in order to create a unique hack was the ProgrammableWeb: Mashup Matrix [1].

It had all known web services along each edge, so people without any original ideas or will to write their own code could check if "It's like X for Y" had been taken yet, in order to impress their investors that their unique snowflake of an gimmick to effortlessly combine two other company's hard work together was a viable unicorn seed.

Eventually there were so many web services that it became like checking the Million Dollar Home Page [2] to see if one particular pixel was already taken.

<s>But we've moved far beyond that, fortunately.</s> Why stop at two dimensional matrices? Are there actually any practical mashups left that limit themselves to using only two other web services, these days?

Web 2.0 is to "It's like X for Y!" as Web 3.0 is to "It's like X for Y with Z!"

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20100829232918/http://www.progra...

[2] http://www.milliondollarhomepage.com/

Don't worry about it! I figure most of us only have the time and attention to work on a few things. If you don't happen to be fascinated by integrating lightbulbs and Minecraft, that doesn't make you a boring/uncreative/dumb/whatever person.

> my internal answer to the question above is basically "No, not really"

oh my god how can you not find this the coolest thing ever

> Does it make me less of a "hacker"?

Probably not.

Nothing wrong with it, but it does allow people to stretch their brains a bit, and sometimes you get new novel things that start out with "Dude, you know what would be cool?"

All I can say is when you work at your passion you don't work a day of your life.

I love hacking tech even on the weekends and after hours. If you don't then you might want to consider a new career.

I think a big part of why 30 years into my career I'm still learning is because to me this is my "fun". I don't want to watch 30 hours of reality TV. I'd rather build a cat feeder that uses OpenCV to identify which cat is eating and when the cat's feeding bowl is empty.

Recently my job shifted yet again to more management and my wife suggested I "take vacation and work on that iPhone app you were playing with a couple months ago". She knows I'm a much more enjoyable guy to be around when I have had a couple really nice zoned out hours pounding a keyboard to beg a computer to do something stupid I've come up with.

PS: When my wife saw this first thing she asked was if I could interface something like that to the cat feeder. :-)

I'm curious, maybe if it was re-worded, would you agree?

> I have a couple of WiFi-enabled bulbs near me, wouldn't it be an interesting experiment to be able to control them using Minecraft?

Something like this I put into the category of technology art. Not something I want to invest my own time on, but like seeing. Doesn't mean it's for everyone though.

As for whether this makes you less of a hacker. I doubt it. We all hack in different ways. For me, my hacking today consisted of writing a scheduled payment simulator in JavaScript to help explain to the tech guys how it is expected to behave (fed up of writing documents).

"seemingly unrelated" It's not hard to imagine that this is how a flight control system for a drone might work.

Yep, I feel the same way. I don't really like tinkering, though. I don't like the mindset of tinkerers, either. Every tinkerer I've come across has never finished anything of substantial size, and every one I've met had terrible programming habits, or such strongly opinionated views, you couldn't work with them or discuss something you liked because it wasn't inline with their holy views of writing god-awful code.

When I pursue a project, I work on it in terms of 10s of thousands of lines of code over a 2-4+ year span of time. When I take up small projects, I make sure they're useful for production purposes.

I often think about the portfolios of people like this, a large number of repositories to show for, and nothing ever particularly useful. Everything is a gimmick, and nothing ever took serious architectural decision making on a grand scale.

> because it wasn't inline with their holy views of writing god-awful code.

Code quality is for the most part subjective. Sure there are standards or general conventions, but these differ largely between codebases and languages. Some people take this to extremes, especially if they're not used to coding with other programmers.

> When I take up small projects, I make sure they're useful for production purposes.

> ...

> I often think about the portfolios of people like this, a large number of repositories to show for, and nothing ever particularly useful.

That's fine, but some of us tinker and hack for a different reason: knowledge and curiosity's sake. For me (Although I know it also applies to a few other people I know), the sole goal is learning and experimenting -- a working project is just a bonus. Occasionally I'll code a tool to make life easier, but it's not the be-all-and-end-all.

> When I pursue a project, I work on it in terms of 10s of thousands of lines of code over a 2-4+ year span of time.

It's great that you have the energy to do that, but I (and I can't speak for anyone else here) simply don't have the energy to devote my time to a single project over a long period of time. I find it wears me out, and after a while programming turns into drudge-work. Not to mention there are always fun cool little projects popping into my head.

Feynman thought tinkering had value :P


"Among the redeeming qualities of our species is that we play. Indeed, we surround ourselves with toys, and we remain preoccupied with them throughout life… We display almost inconceivable creativity as we tinker with our playthings. The force of imagination and the passion for experimenting propel us toward outrageous designs and technological achievements."

From Henk Tennekes' _The Simple Science of Flight_

what do you do for fun? it is okay that people do pointless shit in the name of fun, right?

I make games and software to help others make games, ironically enough.

Reminds me of dockercraft, discussed recently at: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10584956

I have a raspberry pi controlled cat feeder I built and have been playing around with the last couple of weeks as a side project. I showed this to my wife and she said "Oh so can you make it so I can feed that cats while playing minecraft?" LOL

Next up: Order pizza and laundry through Minecraft

Next up: Live your whole life through Minecraft.

Wait... is this what VR is going to evolve to?

Part of it, and in a way.

PSDoom[1], anyone?

[1] http://psdoom.sourceforge.net

I'd like to hear more about the bulbs used. Cheap wifi bulbs with a simple protocol sound like fun.

I must have these, and a link to their alibaba page.

For some reason I get weary when I see cheap Chinese products that connect directly to a DC source. Mostly because of the stories of cheap phone chargers catching fire, or electrocuting users.

Well, if they do catch fire, at least they still provide illumination even when they fail!

Graceful degradation in action.

I'm also a little weary of cheap Chinese products that connect to my network... I'm always a little worried that they'll be doing something malicious, and I don't have the network know-how to prevent that.

That said, I'm not entirely sure the risk is that much greater with off-brand Chinese products than "American" (designed, programmed and made in China) ones.

Since we can't install firewalls on cheap Wi-Fi IoT devices, it would be interesting to have a Wi-Fi router that handles that for you, isolating every device on the network by default. Just have every device have a web control interface so that you don't have nasty surprises from devices starting to communicate on ports they aren't expected to be operating on. Or just close all outbound ports from devices by default, and just open those that are needed to operate the device. Requests to communicate on closed ports could trigger a message to the Wi-Fi admin who could decide what to let open. A smart interface would pre-generate Web searches for the device ID and port trying to open up so you can read up about it.

That's a really cool idea. I've actually considered having a second "guest" network for everything I don't trust my ability to secure, like windows machines and cheap IOT stuff.

this would be really useful. I think with a nice UX it could be rather popular.

True, but since everything is made in China these days, probably half the products in your house that connect to a DC source are cheap and Chinese.

Yes, but they've probably been at least UL (or CSA) certified to not burn down your house.

prob the Phillips bulbs. Sadly they don't sit flush in most sockets, despite using the same fixture name.

The Philips Hue bulb is the only one I'm really aware of, but I didn't think they were cheap. From the post it sounded like he was using something similar to the Hue bulbs but much cheaper.

Definitely not the Philips Hue bulbs. Those use a REST API on port 80 for network control, whereas these bulbs are using a proprietary binary protocol on port 5577.

From what I've been able to find about the Philips API, there's also a modicum of authentication while these appear happy to accept input from anyone on the network.

I don't think so--the author addresses it. From the post:

>My WiFi bulbs are some unknown, eBay sourced devices that use a crappy mobile app for control.

Same! I'd like to hear more

Caught my eye as well, wouldn't mind cheap WiFi-lamps to play around with.

Also check out "Minecraft: Pi edition" for the Raspberry Pi. It comes with embedded python support and is free: http://pi.minecraft.net/

Somewhat unfortunately, it hasn't been updated since 2012 and lacks a lot of features of the Pocket or PC version.

Now the next step is to build a replica of his house and this specific room down to the details so he can turn the lamp on in game which turns on the lamp in the real world.

Build a replica of someone else's house and let me control their lights!

This is what Code Hero, which I helped develop [1] tries to be. I hope this will have some success as well! With the right spark, there is a ton of creative fuel that can be channeled from excited kids into computer programming.

[1] http://primerlabs.com/codehero

Poking around the website it looks like an awesome project. I'm going to give it a try! But, the site needs a marketing person or someone gifted with visuals + words. Also, codehero.org has a redirect loop and most of the pages are access denied.

This seems like it'd be awesome for Minetest [1]. Minetest has a lot of (very) rough edges, but basically it's a Minecraft-like engine where most functionality beyond the very basic is added through mods written in Lua. I'd be fun to be able to live-code the mods on an in-game computer..

[1] http://www.minetest.net/

Finally, 'Hackers' the movie style 3D interfaces for managing networking infrastructure.

In all seriousness. As networking structures become more modular, it might not be a bad idea to have systems where the architecture can be modeled and monitored visually.

I have come across presentations of some custom/proprietary systems that provide interesting visualizations of networking interactions. It would be awesome to see a generalized platform implementation.

So cool. Reminded of Gibson's The Peripheral - even if there's nothing so existentially twisted in what the author actually did. I suppose the interesting part is just that the author is controlling a light IRL from the center of a russian-doll of emulated environments, but it sure feels profound given that one of those environments emulates an environment you can walk around in.

Now if this whole thing could be accomplished using pure redstone circuitry http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/109385-Computer-Bu...

Redstone has no means of communication to the outside, so even if you created an entire computer with redstone(very unlikely) you would have no means of communication outside of minecraft.

That would be a neat experiment to see if the conjecture, "Redstone has no means of communication to the outside" is true. It would be interesting to find bugs within the redstone rendering engine that leak or emit data. I'm thinking of something similar to the Super Mario World bank switching pong game.

That would be using a security vulnerability to reprogram the game then, of course if you can do that you can do anything on the computer. Since Minecraft is sandboxed in the JVM that might prove difficult though.

Well, if you have Computer Craft (or presumably Open Computers) you can get redstone out of the game and send an SMS: https://boomtree.com/r2p I made that. But just this week LittleBits released a Minecraft mod called "bitCraft" that lets you use their CloudBit to simplify all these steps even further: http://discuss.littlebits.cc/t/bitcraft-our-minecraft-mod-is...

Reverse engineer the client code such that a little bot player runs around in game flipping levers and seeing if redstone torches are on/off. Then you would truly have a computer with a little guy running around inside it doing all the thinking.

The famous (is it?) minebot already implements about 99% of the required functionality and requires no server side mods. There are of course competitors to minebot some of which may be closer or further away from this goal.

Open Computers is very powerful. I once knew a modded Mincecraft server admin who used Open Computers to receive and send text message updates about his base and the state of server when he was away from his computer.

Would be great if Microsoft extended the python API they set up for the Raspberry pi to other platforms. It's tons of fun to play with.

I'd like to play minecraft in minecraft. I would totally install minecraft on that minecraft also and play minecraft on it.

Now implement a video chat protocol in Minecraft. How trippy would it be to receive a video chat call from a Minecraft avatar?

Who else thinks that Minecraft will become the next iteration of nested simulated universe.

I've seen a video of a 2D minecraft implemented in minecraft. Minecraft all the way down...

Now you just need to be able to SSH into the server running the game itself...

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