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23 Places Where the Konami Code Lives On

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GiantBomb.com

Way back in 1985, Kazuhisa Hashimoto was working on the arcade game Gradius. Because he didn’t want to actually play the whole game during the testing process, he developed a little shortcut that gave him a full set of power-ups, letting him live long enough to easily get to where he needed to without dying. When the game went live in 1986, the code was still there. To get full power-ups, all a player had to do was enter the code up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.

The trick caught on, and soon, the so-called “Konami Code” could be found in a number of arcade and video games. Most notably, it gave you 30 extra lives in Contra. This super-secret (…or not) code has a special place in the hearts of geeks who have since grown up and used the insider code in websites, in movies, and on TV shows. Here are a few places to watch for the UUDDLRLRBA reference.

1. It’s Shark Week every day at Qiwi.be. Keep hitting enter once you key in the code.

2. Some old-school Nintendo nostalgia for you at virtualNES. Enter to activate.

3. Just when you thought the bacon craze had reached its limits, SoundClick takes it to another level.

4. The Code plays a key role in Wreck-It Ralph

5. You can also find a reference to the code in the queue to meet the Wreck-It Ralph characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios:

Photo courtesy of Jason English

6. If you didn't catch the reference in Archer a few weeks ago, don't feel bad—it was disguised as a code within a code. 

Photo courtesy of Gamesided

A Redditor thought that the code above resembled hex code, so he sent the chain through a decoder to see what he would get. The result? "UUDDLRLRBA." The find was confirmed by the animator who put it there.

7. In 1976, Gene Roddenberry and William Shatner sat down and had a little chat about Gene's history and the development of Star Trek. It's not terribly hidden, since the page spells out exactly how to find this "hidden" interview. But it's fun anyway!

8. Here's a little twist on the code: Go to a Google search bar, then use Google Voice to search for "Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right." (No "b" or "a" necessary.) It unlocks a Google "cheat mode" that will make you laugh. Or at least roll your eyes.

9. Various Conde Nast UK sites provide a quick look at ancient fashion history you probably didn't know about—check out Vogue and GQ

10. The UK Wired (also Conde Nast) site also has a little hidden treat. Meow go on over and try it out.

11. Try it at digg.com—and turn your speakers on.

12. The code works on BuzzFeed. It's diabolical, though. SFW—just diabolical. 

13. There's no missing the effects of the Code at Dango Design.

14. Eagle-eyed fans of the animated Disney series Gravity Falls may have noticed the gaming reference on the journal page in the intro. You can see how fast it goes by here, which is where I grabbed the screenshot.

15. Scott Pilgrim fans won't be surprised to learn that there's a hidden message on the Scott Pilgrim iPhone app site. Be sure to press enter.

16. Could you use more rainbows and unicorns in your life? Cornify thought so, too. Head there and enter the Code for a sparkly surprise.

17. Geek and Hype's Konami Code contribution is quite fitting. 

18. Get ready for fun graphics and earwig music over at Nikdaum.com.

19. The next time you're over at dancesportinfo.net, checking out the latest in the world of ballroom dancing, give the code a try. 

20. The Easter egg at teddy-o-ted.com is actually somewhat useful ... or at least more so than most of these.

21. I'm going to show you one of the images you see when you enter the code at http://www.ukoakdoors.co.uk/, but trust me—you're going to want to go see the other two. (Let us know if you find more than two.)

22. Get goosed over at kuppiya.com. And keep clicking! There are plenty of geese to go around.

23. A geeky insider joke on Family Guy—who could have guessed?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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