LMX: Hoax, Fake or Fraud?

This is my last post about LMX AKA Lightmotion, on the other hand their website is now down, and this could mean that these people won’t harm anyone at least in this way. All links you’ll find here are to Italian only pages.
I did some investigation on Friday, starting from the email address contained in the DNS records for the domain lmfx.com. This address led to a bunch of messages on the provider forum. The most interesting message is the one in which the writer asks for a way to create a mailing list given a list of mail addresses in a text file. Sounds like a spammer wannabe? Note that this message has been written on Jul, 7th, around the days when the lightmotion job offerings were posted around the world.
Another interesting post is found in the gameprog.it job offering site, where he looks for programmers and artists to create a videogame. This post is quite old dating back to September 2002, but you can recognize the idea of working for him, in the spare time, while keeping your work. The other point is that in this post you find two other email addresses of him.
By googling the latest you are pointed to a first surprise – on December 2003, he is claiming that he is studying C++ at university and he is looking for a Visual Basic program that has to perform some suspicious operations of search and extraction.
The last post of notice is the request for a program again about strings search and extraction, but this time the author explicitly writes about extracting email addresses from web pages.
The author this time claims he is studying Java at university and he’s looking for a C++ implementation. Since some users of the forum doubted about some spam intents, he declared that this request was for a Economy course assignment about how to speed up recruitment.
I’d like to stop here (otherwise it would seem personal bashing) leaving the conclusion to you.

Commotion for LightMotion

I’ve been busy for a while, this is why there are no updates. Anyway I’d like to write a couple of lines (well… maybe something more) about the Light Motion affair. At the beginning of July in several computer graphics related forums on the internet appeared a job offering from an unknown company LightMotion.
In the ads, LightMotion claimed to be a corporation with studios and partner studios everywhere in the world, with headquarters in a small town in Southern Italy (Minervino di Lecce). Going to their website you were welcome with an impressive portfolio of movie titles to which LightMotion pretended to have contributed either for CG, SFX or other services.
As soon as we discovered this company site, here at UbiSoft, I started doing some investigation. If the company was as large as the site pretended to be, then Internet should be full of references… hardly big things like this go unnoticed these days 🙂
But googling for references to lightMotion or to key employee cited in the site, yielded no results.
Then on RenderGlobal an Italian CG forum a thread appeared on the topic, with people posing question about LighMotion and its credibility. Soon a new user joined the forum claiming to be the LightMotion PR. In his first post he assured that the company was created in Italy, but in Italy just kept a small advertising studio. The real company HQ had to be in California. As closing of the message he declared that the company was about to open some videogame development studios in Milan and that forum users could mail him for an invitation to a conference in Milan for the event.
At this point many had already sent their CV and some started to ask for invitation. The answer to all these mails asked for a CV, a color picture of the applicant and his/her identity card (or other document) photocopy.
If the site and the internet search made me suspicious, the ID card request triggered a lot of alarm bells. Why on the earth they would need such a document for a CV submission, or a conference invitation? More likely it could be about faking Id cards, or other frauds I can’t imagine of.
Anyway, the forum was plenty of skeptical people, too. The street address reported on the site wasn’t precise and the PR attempt to produce some clarifications. Also the lack of information was motivated as the company was renown in his industry and doesn’t need to advertise elsewhere. And the board of directors was composed by lawyers and accounts that didn’t want visibility. Nonetheless in every post the LightMotion PR required people to send him CVs and invitation requests.
Time passes, the forum grows hot. More and more people are interested, and many are skeptical or dubious about the company. LightMotion PR attempts again to clear things up, declaring that the site is somewhat ambiguous because it has been developed by an external studio, and that for movie-contracts often they turns the deal to one of their associate and therefore it is the associate names to appear in the movie credits.
I decide to enter the arena posting in the forum that ‘often’ is not ‘always’ and therefore should exist at least one movie with LightMotion cited in the credits.
A while after my post, the LightMotion site was replaced with a disclaimer page stating (in Italian) that lmfx.com website was a part of a school project, without commercial purposes and it’s not a company website; they took no responsibility for names reported in the site and that someone was speculating on the school-project claiming the company was real.
At this point a new user enters the forum and claims himself the LightMotion website author. He confirms basically what the replacement page declared. Anyway he adds that the site may be restored on-line again with some precautions to avoid similar abuse in the future.
That’s not the end… still many questions were opened, and doubts were still there. Who received the mails, why the replacement page was in Italian only, which school was involved and so on. One things that smelt badly from the beginning was that every piece of text coming from LightMotion had been typed with spaces before commas and dots. That’s quite an unusual mistake, it could be just a coincidence, but it was odd that many people sported that typing feature.
On Jul, 15 the LightMotion PR user drops the mask and claims to be a 16 years old boy just willing to challenge his ability, and confirming the school-project nature of the website. Many apologize messages follow from the two users (the website author and the 16 years old boy). Forum users were quite upset by the story and many of them menaced legal actions against the two users.
The story is going to have another twist. The website author post another message declaring that everything could be solved by turning LightMotion into a real company, with a web design studio and hire one or two artists.
The story was really getting crazy! Not only because many questions weren’t still answered, but also because the two guys were pretending that the forum users should feel in debt with them because they were trying to settle the thing.
Shortly after the forum moderators locked the discussion, since it seemed no longer related to the forum topic. Also the moderator confirmed that they try to ban the user job offerings, and the LightMotion user insisted and menaced not to harm his business.
The story is not over yet.
The site was brought on-line again, again with no disclaimer or warning sign. Some coworkers who had sent their CVs was contacted via email from LightMotion. Another thread in renderglobal started with the objective of warn people about LMFX/LightMotion dubious activities. In this thread you can also get a recording of a phone call made by one forum user pretending to be an ILM lawyer and asking to remove the ILM name from the site.
In another thread, this time started by someone in LightMotion, they claimed that now a company was constituted by the name of LightMotion, and now everything was legal, they were preparing a game concept to propose to a publisher, they are hiring artist (!), and that every defamatory message should be quit to avoid consequences.

When I started writing this I thought that this affair was over, but I got some news during the blog update. What is certain is that it is not a clear situation. Even if the site has been made by a boy as a joke, then converted in a real company with the help of his teacher, I won’t recommend anyone to join this company since the lack of transparency and clear answers. The other relevant thing is that unfortunately Italy is “hungry” for this kind of companies. There are bright and great professionals in these advanced fields (Computer Graphics, Video Games, … ) but there aren’t opportunities for them to express their skills. Most of the time they are forced to work underpaid for some small and dull company.
If LightMotion were for real then I bet that they would have the chance to conveniently hire lot of excellent people and to create CG and VG Dream Teams.

Nvidia’n’Linux

There are some activities you fear of in advance. I was quite afraid of the Linux drivers for NVidia video card. Since yesterday the new 4k stack drivers were released an attempt was needed.I have to say that the installation was quite painless and the outcome good indeed. Nonetheless there are a number of subtleties that can misguide the less experiences linux user (by definition there is such a thing like a unexperienced Linux user 🙂 ).
First the right file should be downloaded. I headed for the AMD-Athlon version of the drivers (NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-1.0-6106-pkg2.run), only to discover that Fedora Core 2 installs a x86 kernel on AMD and therefore I need the other drivers file (NVIDIA-Linux-x86-1.0-6106-pkg1.run).
Next I switched to a text console (Ctrl+Alt+F2) and then logged in as root. Since the installation should be performed without the X system running I changed the runlevel with init 3. This command actually prints some informations but leave your user logged in.
The I issued the command ./NVIDIA-Linux-x86-1.0-6106-pkg1.run. This action brings in the NVidia installer, which warned me of a previous installation (yes, there was one, but it was disabled), and then asked me for accessing NVidia ftp server to look for a new version of the drivers. At this time the application hung. I guess that this problem has something to do with my ADSL router/firewall not always happy with DNS resolution. Anyway I killed the application and restarted it.
This time everything went fine and I was left at the root prompt with some brief instruction about completing the installation. It is better to have handy the README, so I opened another console (Ctrl+Alt+F3) and used it for displaying the README.
The remaining operations are very straightforward, but I wonder why they haven’t coded the in the installer. Basically you have to edit the X configuration file (please note that by default on Fedora Core 2, this file is /etc/X11/xorg.conf) and:

  • change line Driver “nv” to Driver “nvidia”;
  • remove lines Load “dri” and Load “GLcore”;
  • add the line Load “glx” (if not already present) in the same section the other ‘Load’ directives are listed.

Back to the prompt I changed the runlevel to 5 with init 5. Et voilà the X server started (with a while of suspance), displaying the NVidia logo.
Rushing to test with TuxRacer and Chromium proved me that the hardware acceleration was there for real.

Site updates.

The more attentive of my two readers 😉 surely had noticed that I’ve updated the book page with the reviews of the last books I read. I feel that the book reviews page needs some enhancement, e.g. the author names, my overall score, other book information. What do you think?