By Soulskill from Slashdot's honk-if-you-have-free-will department
An anonymous reader writes: Last week we learned that self-driving big-rig trucks were finally being deployed on public roads in Nevada for testing purposes. Experts consider trucking to be ripe for replacement with AI because of the sheer volume of trucks on the road, and the relative simplicity of their routes. But the eventual replacement of truck drivers with autonomous driving systems will have a huge impact on the U.S. economy: there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers, and millions more are employed to support and coordinate them. Yet more people rely on truckers to stay in business — gas stations, motels, and restaurants along trucking routes, to name a few.
Now, that's not to say moving forward with autonomous driving is a bad idea — in 2012, roughly 4,000 people died in accidents with large trucks, and almost all of the accidents were caused by driver error. Saving most of those lives (and countless injuries) is important. But we need to start thinking about how to handle the 10 million people looking for work when the (human) trucking industry falls off a cliff. It's likely we'll see another wave of ghost towns spread across the poor parts of the country, as happened when the interstate highway system changed how long-range transportation worked in the U.S.Read Replies (0)
By Soulskill from Slashdot's stay-classy department
An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Venancio has done some research that's perfect reading for a lazy Saturday afternoon: figuring out a coherent taxonomy for sci-fi spaceships. If you're a sci-fi fan, you've doubtless heard or read references to a particular starship's "class" fairly often. There are flagships and capital ships, cruisers and corvettes, battleships and destroyers. But what does that all mean? Well, there's not always consistency, but a lot of it comes from Earth's naval history. "The word 'corvette' comes from the Dutch word corf, which means 'small ship,' and indeed corvettes are historically the smallest class of rated warship (a rating system used by the British Royal Navy in the sailing age, basically referring to the amount of men/guns on the vessel and its relative size; corvettes were of the sixth and smallest rate). ... They were usually used for escorting convoys and patrolling waters, especially in places where larger ships would be unnecessary."
Venancio takes the historical context for each ship type and then explains how it's been adapted for a sci-context. "Corvettes might be outfitted to have some sort of stealth or cloaking system for reconnaissance or spec ops missions; naturally it would be easier to cloak a smaller ship than a larger one (though plenty of examples of large stealth ships exist). In some series they are likely to be diplomatic vessels due to their small size and speed, particularly seen in Star Wars, and can commonly act as blockade runners (again; their small size and speed makes them ideal for slipping through a blockade, where a larger ship presents more of a target)."Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's scrabble-will-still-show-their-ads-to-me-I-bet department
with news that may have a big impact on both advertisers and end-users who use their phones as portals to ad-supported websites. Several European telecom providers are apparently planning to use ad-blocking software at the data-center level
, which would mean benefit for users (in the form of less obnoxious advertising, and less data being eaten by it) but quite a pickle for online advertisers, and sites that rely on advertising revenue. From BetaNews's article (based on this Financial Times article, paywalled
):Talking to the Financial Times, one wireless carrier said that the software had been installed at its data centers and could be enabled by the end of the year. With the potential to automatically block most ads on web pages and within apps, the repercussion of the ad boycott could be huge as mobile providers try to wrestle control from the likes of Google.
I just wish my mobile provider would start testing this out, too.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's want-to-double-down-on-greasy-bar-food? department
Polygon.com features a look at how (very) different computer game worlds can meet, in the form of game designer Ralph Koster's Kitchen Disasters
-style rescue effort to revive a game quite unlike the ones he's famous for designing, like Ultima Online
. Bar-trivia provider Buzztime has been putting electronic trivia games into bars for three decades -- and in that time, the number of options available to potential players has jumped. Bar trivia has crept into the domain of things like vinyl-based juke-boxes: not without appeal, but not exactly modern. Koster has tried to apply modern game design paradigms and objectives
, and revamped the game:Koster's Jackpot Trivia is now being introduced in a few hundred locations. Buzztime operates in around 4,000 bars and restaurants, but already the new addition has increased game usage by 15 percent.
Much of the improvements came from Koster's experiences of making and playing MMOs, and on the MMO's influence on all games. "These days, a lot of the qualities of MMOs are popping up on everything from social media to systems that sit outside and on top of games, like everything around Xbox Live and Steam," he says.
The re-vamp means, for Buzztime, better matching of opponents, as part of an overall redesign of incentives and risks: players have also gotten finer-grained control over their plays, by being able to assign weight to their answers: that means they can guess with less penalty when answers are tough, or take advantage of confidence in knowledge about a category in which they're strong.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's unfurling department
writes to note that The Planetary Society
is attempting to crowdfund its own version
of the light-powered space-craft popularized by Carl Saga as a "solar sailer." (YouTube video
, with the Society's CEO Bill Nye.)The current model is a CubeSat no bigger than a breadbox with four sails. If the team manages to raise enough money, LightSail will be sent to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2016. LightSail will be released into an orbit with an altitude of 720 kilometers (450 miles), high enough to escape most of the planet's atmospheric drag.
Their crowdfunding goal has been far surpassed (more than $476,000 at this writing), but more can't hurt; maybe NASA could use some of the surplus
.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's what-say-ye? department
writes with a link to the New York Times's version of story that a Boston jury earlier today returned a verdict of death
in the Boston Marathon bombing. From that report: A federal jury on Friday condemned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a failed college student, to death for setting off bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds more in the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. The jury of seven women and five men, which last month convicted Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, of all 30 charges against him, 17 of which carry the death penalty, took more than 14 hours to reach its decision. It was the first time a federal jury had sentenced a terrorist to death in the post-Sept. 11 era, according to Kevin McNally, director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, which coordinates the defense in capital punishment cases.Read Replies (0)
By Roblimo from Slashdot's clack-clack-clack-the-keyboard-types-on-down-the-track department
For a good number of years, the sound of the old IBM or other mechanical keyboard clacking away was the sound of programmers (or writers) at work on their computers. Then, according to Edgar Matias
, president and cofounder of the Matias Corporation
, computer companies started using membrane switches and other cheaper ways to make keyboards, which made a lot of people mutter curse words under their breath as they beat their fingers against keys that had to go all the way to the bottom of their travel to work, unlike the good old mechanical keyboards we once knew and loved.
Enter Edgar Matias, who started out making the half keyboard
, which is like a chorded keyboard except that you can use your QWERTY typing skills with little modification -- assuming you or your boss has $595 (!) to lay out on a keyboard. But after that Edgar started making QWERTY and Dvorak keyboards for semi-competitive prices. FYI: No Slashdot person got a free keyboard (or extra money) for making this video, but I have a Matias keyboard, and in my opinion it's far better than the cheapie it replaced. A lot of other people seem to want "real" keyboards, too, which they buy from Matias or from other companies such as Unicomp
, which makes keyboards just like the classic, heavily-loved IBM Model M. Again, I've owned a Unicomp keyboard (that I bought; it was not a giveaway) and it was excellent. Both companies put out quality products that are far easier on your hands and wrists than the $10 or $20 keyboards sold by big box electronics retailers.Read Replies (0)