By EditorDavid from Slashdot's very-unsatisfied-customers department
The Guardian revisits the disastrous 2016 launch of the massive open-universe videogame No Man's Sky, in a new interview with company director Sean Murray:
"I've never liked talking to the press. I didn't enjoy it when I had to do it, and when I did it, I was naive and overly excited about my game. There are a lot of things around launch that I regret, or that I would do differently." He is reluctant to relive the particulars of what happened in the weeks and months following No Man's Sky's release in August 2016 ("I find it really personal, and I don't have any advice for dealing with it," he says), but it involved death threats, bomb threats sent to the studio and harassment of people who worked at Hello Games on a frightening scale. They were in regular contact with Scotland Yard and the Metropolitan police... "I remember getting a death threat about the fact that there were butterflies in our original trailer, and you could see them as you walked past them, but there weren't any butterflies in the launch game. I remember thinking to myself: 'Maybe when you're sending a death threat about butterflies in a game, you might be the bad guy....'"
Despite the controversy, No Man's Sky sold extremely well, and plenty of its players have stuck by it. A year after release, when Hello Games released the Atlas Rises update, about a million people showed up to play, and the average playtime was 45 hours.... It is still recognisable as the lonely, abstractly beautiful space-exploration game I played in 2016, but three big updates have added a lot more. It is now definitely a better game, with much more to do and a clearer structure... Now you can also construct bases, drive around in vehicles and -- as of next week -- invite other players to explore with you, in groups of four. You can crew a freighter together, or colonise a planet with ever-expanding constructions.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dominant-languages department
The Economist argues that Guido Van Rossum resembled the reluctant Messiah in Monty Python's Life of Brian. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
"I certainly didn't set out to create a language that was intended for mass consumption," he explains. But in the past 12 months Google users in America have searched for Python more often than for Kim Kardashian, a reality-TV star. The rate of queries has trebled since 2010, while inquiries after other programming languages have been flat or declining. The language's popularity has grown not merely among professional developers -- nearly 40% of whom use it, with a further 25% wishing to do so, according to Stack Overflow, a programming forum -- but also with ordinary folk. Codecademy, a website that has taught 45 million novices how to use various languages, says that by far the biggest increase in demand is from those wishing to learn Python. It is thus bringing coding to the fingertips of those once baffled by the subject. Pythonistas, as aficionados are known, have helped by adding more than 145,000 packages to the Cheese Shop, covering everything from astronomy to game development....
Python was already the most popular introductory language at American universities in 2014, but the teaching of it is generally limited to those studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A more radical proposal is to catch 'em young by offering computer science to all, and in primary schools. Hadi Partovi, the boss of Code.org, a charity, notes that 40% of American schools now offer such lessons, up from 10% in 2013. Around two-thirds of 10- to 12-year-olds have an account on Code.org's website. Perhaps unnerved by a future filled with automated jobs, 90% of American parents want their children to study computer science.
"The CIA has employed Python for hacking, Pixar for producing films, Google for crawling web pages and Spotify for recommending songs," notes the Economist.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's hot-potato department
Ecuador is planning to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to UK authorities in the "coming weeks or even days," RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, citing her own sources. Simonyan reported the news in a recent tweet, which was reposted by WikiLeaks. Slashdot reader Okian Warrior first shared the news. Daily Express reports: Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan is said to be involved in the diplomatic effort, which has come weeks ahead of a visit by new Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, who called Mr Assange an "inherited problem." He also referred to the exiled WikiLeaks founder as a "stone in the shoe." Sources close to Assange claim he was not aware of the talks, but believe America is piling "significant pressure" on Ecuador to give him up, according to the Sunday Times. The sources claim that America has threatened to block a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if he is not removed from the embassy, based in Knightsbridge, west London.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-look department
CBS has released a "Season Two Premiere" for Star Trek Discovery, offering the first look at the upcoming season of the show on CBS All Access. The first season launched late last year and finished up in February after a brief hiatus. The Verge reports of what to expect from the upcoming season, which is expected to premiere sometime in early 2019: [It] appears to begin with Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) coming aboard and taking control of the USS Discovery after a series of mysterious "red bursts" are detected, simultaneously spread out across 30,000 light years. Burnham later claims "Spock is linked to these signals." New series guest star Tig Notaro makes a very Tig Notaro joke, Pike encourages the crew to "have a little fun," Tilly yells about "the power of math" -- a good time, in other words. (After all, the whole thing is set the tune of Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away," so you know it's real.) Bonus: at the end we meet another, very sniffly alien Discovery crew member, proving Saru and the bridge androids aren't the sole non-humans aboard the ship, as we once feared. At the Discovery panel at San Diego Comic Con's Hall H, a new Star Trek series was announced, called Star Trek: Short Treks. It is "a series of monthly short-form stories that will function like bonus content and air on CBS All Access in conjunction with the larger Star Trek: Discovery series," reports The Verge. "CBS says Short Treks, which will air in installments of about 10 to 15 minutes, is 'an opportunity for deeper storytelling and exploration of key characters and themes that fit into... the expanding Star Trek universe.'"Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's smart-pills department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: The study authors Lisa Weyandt, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island, and Tara White, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University, started out investigating the effects of ADHD medications in students that actually have a diagnosable attention deficit disorder. They showed that in these students, there is decreased activity in the areas of the brain controlling "executive functions," which can make it hard for them to stay organized or focused. But because both authors work with college students, they soon became more interested in the misuse of Adderall. In students whose brains aren't affected by ADHD, does Adderall act as a supercharger? Does it make those areas fly into overdrive and unlock otherwise untapped intellectual ability, as all pill-popping students hope?
Weyant and White's double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 13 college students was a small sample, they admit, but their experiment had a rigorous study design. Neither the students nor the researchers knew who was getting Adderall and who was getting placebo sugar pill. The six tests evaluated different aspects of cognition, like working memory, reading ability and reaction time. While students on Adderall did make fewer errors on a reaction time test, it actually worsened working memory, as shown by a decline in performance on a task where they had to repeat sequences of numbers. In short, Adderall improved focus and attention -- but it didn't actually make anyone smarter. The research has been published in the journal Pharmacy.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's interconnected-world department
A new report from Oxford University found that manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms is growing at a large scale, despite efforts to combat it. "Around the world, government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science," reports Phys.Org. From the report: "The number of countries where formally organized social media manipulation occurs has greatly increased, from 28 to 48 countries globally," says Samantha Bradshaw, co-author of the report. "The majority of growth comes from political parties who spread disinformation and junk news around election periods. There are more political parties learning from the strategies deployed during Brexit and the U.S. 2016 Presidential election: more campaigns are using bots, junk news, and disinformation to polarize and manipulate voters."
This is despite efforts by governments in many democracies introducing new legislation designed to combat fake news on the internet. "The problem with this is that these 'task forces' to combat fake news are being used as a new tool to legitimize censorship in authoritarian regimes," says Professor Phil Howard, co-author and lead researcher on the OII's Computational Propaganda project. "At best, these types of task forces are creating counter-narratives and building tools for citizen awareness and fact-checking." Another challenge is the evolution of the mediums individuals use to share news and information. "There is evidence that disinformation campaigns are moving on to chat applications and alternative platforms," says Bradshaw. "This is becoming increasingly common in the Global South, where large public groups on chat applications are more popular."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's numbers-don't-lie department
Last year, Nike released a new pair of running shoes that claim to make you run 4% faster, thanks to its proprietary sole technology. The new "Vaporfly 4%" shoes would, in theory, "be enough to help a runner break the mythical two-hour marathon barrier for the first time," Fast Company points out. The New York Times decided to put the shoes to the test through an intensive analysis of 500,000 marathon and half marathon running times, culled from the social network Strava. Nike's claims apparently check out. Fast Company reports the findings: We know a lot about the runners in our data set, including their age, gender, race history and, in some cases, how much training they've done in the months before a race. We also know about the races themselves, including the distribution of runners' times and the weather that day. We can put all of this information into a model to try to estimate the change in runners' time from their previous races. After controlling for all of these variables, our model estimates that the shoes account for an expected improvement of about 4 percent over a runner's previous time. Including the uncertainty around the estimates, the Vaporflys are a clear outlier, one of the only popular shoes we can really say makes any difference at all.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's instant-results department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Today, a team of researchers at Stanford, led by materials science and engineering associate professor Alberto Salleo and postdoctoral research fellow Onur Parlak, announced in Science Advances that they've developed a wearable patch that can determine how much cortisol someone is producing in seconds, using sweat drawn from the skin under the patch. [Cortisol, a steroid hormone, goes up when a person is under physical or emotional strain.] The stretchy patch pulls in the sweat through perforations to a reservoir. A membrane on top of the reservoir allows charged ions, like sodium and potassium, to pass through. Cortisol, which has no charge, can't pass, and instead blocks the charged ions. Signals sent from an electrical sensor in the patch can be used to detect these backups and determine how much cortisol is in the sweat.
The prototype cortisol detection patch channels sweat into a reservoir; a membrane selectively lets charged ions through, and the amount of these ions detected can be translated into a reading of cortisol levels in the sweat. Parlak tested the prototype on several runners, and reported that the cortisol levels detected by the wearable sensor patch matched those obtained by running samples of the runners' sweat through an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test that takes several hours.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's de-google-ified department
A crowdfunded project, known as "PeerTube," has blown through its initial goal with 53,100 euros collected in forty-two days. The project aims to be "a fully decentralized version of YouTube, whose computer code is freely accessible and editable, and where videos are shared between users without relying on a central system." The goal is PeerTube to officially launch by October. Quariety reports: PeerTube relies on a decentralized and federative system. In other words, there is no higher authority that manages, broadcasts and moderates the content offered, as is the case with YouTube, but a network of "instances." Created by one or more administrators, these communities are governed according to principles specific to each of them. Anyone can freely watch the videos without registering, but to upload a video, you must choose from the list of existing instances, or create your own if you have the necessary technical knowledge. At the moment, 141 instances are proposed. Most do not have specifics, but one can find communities centered on a theme or open to a particular region of the world. In all, more than 4,000 people are currently registered on PeerTube, for a total of 338,000 views for 11,000 videos. The project does not display ads, unlike YouTube. "In terms of monetization, we wanted to make a neutral tool," says Pouhiou, communication officer for Framasoft, the origin of PeerTube. The site will rely on a "support" button at the start, but "people will be able to code their own monetization system" in the future.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's uncharted-territory department
An anonymous reader shares a report: While the legal status of the Moon as a "global commons" accessible to all countries on peaceful missions did not meet any substantial resistance or challenge, the Outer Space Treaty left further details unsettled. Contrary to the very optimistic assumptions made at the time, so far humankind has not returned to the moon since 1972, making lunar land rights largely theoretical. That is, until a few years ago when several new plans were hatched to go back to the moon. In addition at least two U.S. companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, which have serious financial backing, have started targeting asteroids for the purpose of mining their mineral resources. Geek note: Under the aforementioned Outer Space Treaty, the moon and other celestial bodies such as asteroids, legally speaking, belong in the same basket. None of them can become the "territory" of one sovereign state or another. The very fundamental prohibition under the Outer Space Treaty to acquire new state territory, by planting a flag or by any other means, failed to address the commercial exploitation of natural resources on the moon and other celestial bodies. This is a major debate currently raging in the international community, with no unequivocally accepted solution in sight yet. Roughly, there are two general interpretations possible. Countries such as the United States and Luxembourg (as the gateway to the European Union) agree that the moon and asteroids are "global commons," which means that each country allows its private entrepreneurs, as long as duly licensed and in compliance with other relevant rules of space law, to go out there and extract what they can, to try and make money with it. [...] On the other hand, countries such as Russia and somewhat less explicitly Brazil and Belgium hold that the moon and asteroids belong to humanity as a whole.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's meeting-sales-targets department
Facebook has always nudged truant users back to its platform though emails and notifications. But recently, those prods have evolved beyond comments related to activity on your own profile. From a report: Now Facebook will nag you when an acquaintance comments on someone else's photo, or when a distant family member updates their status. The spamming has even extended to those who sign up for two-factor authentication -- which is a great way to turn people off to that extra layer of security. "The part of it that bugs me is that two-factor authentication is something [Facebook] should be encouraging people to use, but instead the way this is working here is that they're driving people away from two-factor and making people less secure," says Matt Green, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, who has done contracted security work for Facebook in the past. "It's abusive, people's attention is deliberately tweaked by what looks like a two-factor authentication message." Green says he's received near-daily SMS messages from Facebook since January alerting him that one of his friends performed some action on the platform. Before he started receiving the messages, Green says he hadn't logged into Facebook for a long time and had actually forgotten his password. The weirdest part about the SMS notifications is what happens if you reply to them. If you respond, your message is posted to your own profile. Further reading: Facebook Really Wants You To Come Back, Facebook Is Spamming Users Via Their 2FA Phone Numbers, and Facebook Makes Moves On Instagram's Users.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader writes: Six times per week, an empty plane used to fly from London's Heathrow Airport to Cardiff, Wales. The next day, the plane would make the return trip without a single passenger. Half As Interesting, the second channel from Planelopnik-approved Wendover Productions, details why ghost flights like this sometimes operate from Britain's biggest airport in his new video. Despite being one of the most crowded airports in the world, Heathrow operates with only two runways. As a result, it's extremely difficult to get a "slot pair" -- rights for airlines to land and take off at a certain time. Only 650 slot pairs exist per day, so airlines are prepared to drop massive cash in order to get prime slot pairs. And they can trade and sell them, too. [...] Should an airline fail to use their slot at least 80 percent of the time, Heathrow will reassign it to the next company on the waiting list.Read Replies (0)