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Genre Wars — the Downside of the RPG Takeover
Posted by News Fetcher on January 20 '10 at 03:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-gain-1912-experience deptartment:
Phaethon360 writes "From Bioshock and Modern Warfare 2 to even Team Fortress 2, RPG elements are creeping into game genres that we never imagined they would. This change for the most part has managed to subtly improve upon genres that needed new life, but there's a cost that hasn't been tallied by the majority of game developers. 'The simple act of removing mod tools, along with the much discussed dedicated server issue, has made [MW2] a bit of a joke among competitive players. Gone are the days of "promod," and the only option you have is to play it their way. If Infinity Ward are so insistent on improving the variety of our experiences, they don’t have to do it at the expense of the experience that many of us already love. It really is that simple. If they don’t want to provide a good "back to basics experience," they could at least continue to provide the tools that allow us to do that for ourselves.'"

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Sitting Down Too Long Is Bad Even If You Exercise
Posted by News Fetcher on January 20 '10 at 02:15 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's get-a-move-on deptartment:
Ant tips the week-old news that sitting down too much is not good for you, even if you are otherwise fit. A blog at the LA Times reports a followup from Swedish exercise experts: they propose "establishing a new way of thinking about sedentary behavior. They suggest abolishing 'sedentary behavior' as a synonym for not exercising. Instead, sedentary time should be defined as 'muscular inactivity' to distinguish it from not doing any exercise at all." These experts warn that the excessively sedentary are running serious health risks, irrespective of how much exercise they get when they're not plonked behind a desk or lying on a sofa.

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Looking Back At Dungeons & Dragons
Posted by News Fetcher on January 20 '10 at 12:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's lightning-bolt deptartment:
An anonymous reader sends in a nostalgic piece about Dungeons & Dragons and the influence it's had on games and gamers for the past 36 years. Quoting: "Maybe there was something in the air during the early '70s. Maybe it was historically inevitable. But it seems way more than convenient coincidence that Gygax and Arneson got their first packet of rules for D&D out the door in 1974, the same year Nolan Bushnell managed to cobble together a little arcade machine called Pong. We've never had fun quite the same way since. Looking back, these two events set today's world of gaming into motion — the Romulus and Remus of modern game civilization. For the rest of forever, we would sit around and argue whether games should let us do more or tell us better stories."

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Sherlock Holmes and the Copyright Tangle
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 11:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's making-lawyers'-eyes-roll deptartment:
spagiola passes along a New York Times piece on the copyright travails of Sherlock Holmes. "At his age [123 years], Holmes would logically seem to have entered the public domain. But not only is the character still under copyright in the United States, for nearly 80 years he has also been caught in a web of ownership issues so tangled that Professor Moriarty wouldn't have wished them upon him."

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100% Free Software Compatible PC Launches
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 08:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's of-by-and-for deptartment:
crimperman writes "The Open-PC project has announced that its first PC will be available at the end of February for €359. They claim the mini-ITX desktop machine is energy efficient, consumer ready, easy to upgrade, and — significantly — uses only hardware that has free software drivers available. As you'd expect, it comes with GNU/Linux which is running KDE (a €10 donation to the KDE project in included in the price). Interestingly all the key decisions on design, pricing etc. have been made by the community via online polls. The spec of the machine is pretty reasonable for the price: Atom 1.6GHz dual-core processor, 3GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Intel 950 graphics."

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CBS Refuses To Preserve Jack Benny Footage
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 06:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's thirty-nine-forever deptartment:
goosman writes "The president of the International Jack Benny Fan Club had the opportunity to review some holdings of the CBS vaults while assisting them with some transfers. In the vaults she found 25 shows on film that were unreleased, but in the public domain. The IJBFC offered to pay for the digitization and preservation of these shows; they got a letter of enthusiastic support from the Benny estate. CBS has so far refused to allow this preservation to happen." BoingBoing and TechDirt have both covered this act of cultural destruction.

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Hiding From Google
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 04:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's cake-and-eat-it deptartment:
penguinrecorder writes "Google offers Web users a simple trade-off: Let the search giant track a substantial portion of your comings and goings around the Web, and it will offer you a free, superior online experience. Now independent security researcher Moxie Marlinspike is making Web users a counter-offer: take Google's giveaways and keep your privacy too. On Tuesday, Marlinspike launched a service he calls GoogleSharing, a plug-in for Firefox designed to give users access to Google's online offerings while cloaking their identity from the company's data collection tools. By hosting a proxy server with a collection of Google 'identities,' the privacy software will allow users temporarily to route their traffic through another computer that masks their identity by mixing their online actions with those of other users. The system is totally transparent, with no special 'alternative' websites to visit. Your normal work flow should be exactly the same." GoogleSharing only works for those services not requiring a Google login; for the latter, no proxying is done.

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Samsung Settles With Rambus In Patent Dispute
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 04:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's bleak-chip-house deptartment:
Tackhead writes "After almost a decade of legal wrangling, Samsung has settled with Rambus over the antitrust case, regarding allegations of price-fixing for DDR and SDRAM memory, that was scheduled to proceed this month. (Here is a half-decade-old summary of the twists and turns of the case.) As part of the settlement, Samsung agrees to purchase $200M in Rambus stock, pays $200M in cash to Rambus, plus $25M per quarter for the next 5 years in licensing fees. No immediate word on the implications for Micron or Hynix."

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2-D Avatar To Be Pulled From Theaters In China
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 03:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's hard-to-be-blue deptartment:
SimonTheSoundMan notes that Avatar is being pulled from screens in China for being too successful, and too provocative in its anti-authoritarian message. (The 3-D and IMAX versions will remain.) "The communist nation’s state-run movie distributor China Film Group is unexpectedly yanking the James Cameron-directed blockbuster 'Avatar' from 1,628 2-D screens this week in favor of a biography of the ancient philosopher Confucius starring Chow-Yun Fat. ... According to a report in the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, the move was made at the urging of propaganda officials who are concerned that 'Avatar' is taking too much market share from Chinese films and drawing unwanted attention to the sensitive issue of forced evictions."

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Microsoft To Delete Bing IP Data After 6 Months
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 02:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's can't-see-you-anymore deptartment:
adeelarshad82 writes "Bowing to pressure from the EU, Microsoft said it would discard all data collected via its Bing search engine after six months. (Microsoft's announcement contains a timeline for what data gets anonymized or deleted when.) Until now, the software giant has retained the data for 18 months. Over the past two years, however, Internet companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have made efforts to reduce the amount of time that information is stored. Microsoft's policies will remain the same, but now, the company will delete the IP address and other info after six months. Back in December 2008, Microsoft said it would reduce its retention time to six months, but only if its rivals followed suit. At the time, Yahoo anonymized its data after 13 months, and Google did the same after 9 months. A week later, Yahoo cut that time down to three months, but Google said its decisions are not conditioned on what competitors do."

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Why "Running IT As a Business" Is a Bad Idea
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 01:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's guerilla-movement deptartment:
snydeq sends along a provocative piece from Infoworld, arguing that the conventional wisdom on how IT should be run is all wrong. "Bob Lewis dispels the familiar litany that 'IT should be run as a business,' instead offering insights into what he is calling a 'guerilla movement' to reject conventional 'IT wisdom' and industry punditry in favor of what experience tells you will work in real organizations. 'When IT is a business, selling to its "internal customers," its principal product is software that "meets requirements." This all but ensures a less-than-optimal solution, lack of business ownership, and poor acceptance of the results,' Lewis writes. 'The alternatives begin with a radically different model of the relationship between IT and the rest of the business — that IT must be integrated into the heart of the enterprise, and everyone in IT must collaborate as a peer with those in the business who need what they do.' To do otherwise is a sure sign of numbered days for IT, according to Lewis. After all, the standard 'run IT as a business' model had its origins in the IT outsourcing industry, 'which has a vested interest in encouraging internal IT to eliminate everything that makes it more attractive than outside service providers.'"

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Microsoft To Ship Emergency IE Patch
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 12:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's advanced-persistent-threat deptartment:
Grotendo writes "Microsoft plans to release an emergency patch for Internet Explorer very soon to counter targeted attacks and the publication of exploit code for a 'browse and you're owned' vulnerability in its flagship Web browser. The out-of-band update will be released once the company is satisfied that it has been properly tested against all affected versions of Windows. This could happen as early as this weekend." Microsoft has downplayed the seriousness of the IE zero-day, and insisted that it affects only IE6 even as security researchers close in on exploits for IE7 and IE8. Microsoft has had no comment about the firestorm that Google unleashed by directly accusing the Chinese of cyber espionage. ShadowServer has up a sobering post on the massive extent of the problem of "groups that can be referred to as the Advanced Persistent Threat."

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FTL Currents May Power Pulsar Beams
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 12:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's it's-the-law deptartment:
thomst passes along news out of the recent AAAS meeting of a new explanation for pulsar beams that involves faster-than-light currents. Here are Los Alamos's press release and three related papers on the arXiv. "The new model explains the beam emissions from pulsars as products of superluminal currents within the spinning neutron stars' atmospheres. According to the authors' model, the current generated is, itself, faster than light, although the particles that compose it never individually exceed the universal speed limit, thereby preventing Einsteinian post-mortem rotation. The new model is a general explanation of the phenomenon of pulsar beam emissions that explains emissions at all observed frequencies (and different pulsars emit everything from radio waves to x-rays), which no previous model has done."

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USPTO Grants Google a Patent On MapReduce
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 11:30 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's reductio-ad-absurdum deptartment:
theodp writes "Two years ago, David DeWitt and Michael Stonebraker deemed MapReduce a major step backwards (here are the original paper and a defense of it) that 'represents a specific implementation of well known techniques developed nearly 25 years ago.' A year later, the pair teamed up with other academics and eBay to slam MapReduce again. But the very public complaints didn't stop Google from demanding a patent for MapReduce; nor did it stop the USPTO from granting Google's request (after four rejections). On Tuesday, the USPTO issued U.S. Patent No. 7,650,331 to Google for inventing Efficient Large-Scale Data Processing."

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Virtual Currency Becomes Real In South Korea
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 10:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's license-to-print-money deptartment:
garylian writes "Massively is reporting that the South Korean Supreme Court has stated that virtual currency is the equivalent of real-world money. For those of you who might not be drawing the link, the core there is that selling in-game currency for real money is essentially just an exchange of currency and perfectly legal in South Korea. This could have sweeping implications for RMT operations the world over, not to mention free-to-play games and... well, online games in general. The official story is available online from JoongAng Daily."

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Offline Book "Lending" Costs US Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 10:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's oh-the-humanity deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a tongue-in-cheek blog post which puts publisher worries about ebook piracy into perspective: "Hot on the heels of the story in Publisher's Weekly that 'publishers could be losing out on as much $3 billion to online book piracy' comes a sudden realization of a much larger threat to the viability of the book industry. Apparently, over 2 billion books were 'loaned' last year by a cabal of organizations found in nearly every American city and town. Using the same advanced projective mathematics used in the study cited by Publishers Weekly, Go To Hellman has computed that publishers could be losing sales opportunities totaling over $100 billion per year, losses which extend back to at least the year 2000. ... From what we've been able to piece together, the book 'lending' takes place in 'libraries.' On entering one of these dens, patrons may view a dazzling array of books, periodicals, even CDs and DVDs, all available to anyone willing to disclose valuable personal information in exchange for a 'card.' But there is an ominous silence pervading these ersatz sanctuaries, enforced by the stern demeanor of staff and the glares of other patrons. Although there's no admission charge and it doesn't cost anything to borrow a book, there's always the threat of an onerous overdue bill for the hapless borrower who forgets to continue the cycle of not paying for copyrighted material."

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Why Firefox's Future Lies In Google's Hands
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's a-fox-in-hand-is-worth-two-in-the-bush deptartment:
Barence writes "Firefox has just turned five, and it now accounts for 25% of the global market, according to figures from Net Applications. Its success has forced rivals to raise their game, and the past two years have seen Microsoft, Apple, and Opera close the features gap significantly. Google is the default homepage when Firefox first opens, and the default search engine when users type something into the 'awesome bar.' The deal, which runs until 2011, was worth $66 million to Mozilla in 2007, accounting for 88% of the foundation's revenues that year (the last year for which it had published accounts). But now that Google is a competitor as well as a partner, is it really wise for Mozilla to be so dependent on Google?"

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Drupal's Dries Buytaert On Drupal 7
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 09:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's on-the-horizon deptartment:
itwbennett writes "The Drupal community has been working on Drupal 7 for two years, and there are 'hundreds of changes' to show for it, says Drupal creator Dries Buytaert in an interview with ITworld's Esther Schindler on the occasion of Drupal 7 going into Alpha test this week. Most notable for end users are 'some massive usability improvements,' says Buytaert, while site builders will see the greatest changes in the Drupal Content Construction Kit (CCK), which has been moved into the Drupal core. But one thing that hasn't changed is the not-so-easy upgrade path. 'The upgrade path for a Drupal site has never been really easy, to be honest,' Buytaert says. 'We do break backwards compatibility. It's a little bit painful because it requires all of the contributed modules — and there's 4,000-5,000 of them — to make changes.' But Buytaert doesn't think that's all bad. 'Innovation is key. Backwards compatibility limits innovation,' Buytaert contends. 'The rule we have is: We'll break the API if it makes a better API, and if it allows good innovation and progress to be made. Also: The second rule is that we'll never break people's data. We'll always provide an upgrade path for the data.'"

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Open-Source JavaScript Flash Player (HTML5/SVG)
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 09:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's it's-called-gordon-get-it deptartment:
gbutler69 writes "Someone has gone and done it. Tobias Schneider has created a Flash player written in JavaScript targeting SVG/HTML5-capable browsers. It's not a complete implementation yet, but it shows real promise. A few demos have been posted online. How long before HTML5/SVG next-generation browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Epiphany, and other Web-Kit based browsers completely supplant Flash and Silverlight/Moonlight?"

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IBM Patenting Airport Profiling Technology
Posted by News Fetcher on January 19 '10 at 08:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's now-we-can-all-be-potential-terrorists deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "InformationWeek's Wolfe's Den reports that IBM has filed a dozen applications to patent a sophisticated airport security system which supports passive software-based profiling of potentially dangerous passengers off of pre-programmed rules. The setup uses a collection of sensors — video, motion, biometric and even olfactory — in terminals and around the airport perimeter, to supply raw data. 'These patents are built on the inference engine, which [analyzes sensor data and] has the ability to calculate very large data sets in real time,' says co-inventor Roger Angell. A small grid of networked computers delivers the necessary processing power. Two applications go one better than Israeli-style security, analyzing furtive glances to detect, according to the title of the patent application, 'Behavioral Deviations by Measuring Eye Movements,' as well as measuring respiratory patterns."

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