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Friday Five: White House open hacking and Facebook’s new clothes

Chris Mayer

Time for five more stories from across the world of tech and beyond.

Welcome once again to the Friday Five – our irreverent look back at the week and boy has it been a busy old week. If you didn’t see, our sister conference JAXConf has gone free!

We’ve managed to sidestep office Wifi issues (and calm down from that excitement) to deliver this selection for you – enjoy your weekend!

1. White House Hackathon

Here’s something which heartily gets our backing. The first ever White House Open Data Day Hackathon brought together 21 developers and tech experts from across the country to build new tools towards a new SDK, using the We The People API at the heart of the US petition system.

Over nine hours on February 22nd, two teams came up with some innovative ways of using the new API, some of which are profiled in this video. If you want to look deeper at the code, it’s all available on the White’s House own Github.


2. The coolest bunkbed in the galaxy

Even those who weren’t massive Star Wars fans growing up should appreciate the sheer awesomeness of this X-Wing fighter bunkbed. DarthDaddy42 built the custom bed for his three-year old son, who will surely now be the envy of friends throughout his childhood.

The fighter is equipped with all the latest mod cons including a flatscreen TV and a R2D2 cooler for juice boxes, as well as having moveable wings. Pity the poor school friend who comes round for a sleepover and is given an airbed. We’re pretty jealous in all honesty.

3. SimCity launch botched

Fumble of the week surely goes to EA and Maxis. The 23-year old city-planning franchise SimCity was set for a major reboot on Tuesday, complete with full 3D graphics, multiplayer action and the Glassbox simulation engine, the latter making the game ridiculously realistic.

The release however has been plagued with problems, as avid users flocked to try out the game in their droves, overloading the servers. Despite several warnings from SimCity fans on Reddit in the months leading up to release, EA and Maxis chose to not to having preloading in the game, meaning you had to connect to an EA server at all times. That decision has cost them dearly now, with Amazon pulling the game from their site.

If you were lucky enough to make it connect (some waited up nearly 15 hours), you then had to contend with an array of huge bugs, one of which can delete cities randomly. Any positive review received on the game’s quality has been completely undermined by the botched delivery.

4. Facebook gets new gloss

At a press conference this Thursday, Facebook announced a design overhaul of their news feed, to incorporate more space for photos, videos, games and social apps and provide consistency across web and mobile devices. The more cynical viewer might see it as a reshuffling to incorporate more ads, despite a Facebook spokeswoman claiming that additional news feed space would not be used for adverts initially.

It wasn’t long before the comparisons to rival social network Google+ started, but founder Mark Zuckerberg believes the shakeup to the aging news feed will position the social network as a “personalized newspaper.”

When the new look is rolled out of the next few weeks, expect the Facebook community at large to moan about the changes, clamouring for the news feed of old to return at once.

5. Project of the week – Leeroy

Just like last week, the name may have sealed the nod, but this is a useful piece of kit. Leeroy is a Python Flask service which integrates Jenkins with GitHub pull requests. Pretty cool right?

You can use GitHub hooks to quickstart jobs on a Jenkins server or listen for pull request notifications. Well worth checking out if you’re a Python fan or CI-inclined.

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