By msmash from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department
The world has immensely changed since 1999, when a company in Southern California launched an online game called EverQuest that would go on to serve as the model for many more titles to come in the massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) space. And unlike many games that sought to replace it over the years, this one is still going strong.
ArsTechnica has a long-form piece on the old game, its journey and what it has evolved into now. An excerpt from the story: This sword-and-sorcery-based game was developed by a small company, 989 Studios, but it eventually reached its pinnacle under Sony Online Entertainment after SOE acquired that studio roughly a year after the game's launch. Today, EQ marches on with a dedicated player base and another developer, Daybreak Games, at the helm. I've been a dedicated player since the early days, and others like me would likely acknowledge the game peaked early. A variety of factors have whittled down the once-mighty player base since: many just simply walked away, either busy with life or quit because it took up too much time. The impact of World of Warcraft over time is also undeniable.
But while it's no longer a leading game in the MMO space by any stretch (WoW does hold that title), today's EQ retains a small but dedicated fanbase whose members complain as much as they praise it. And in an era where most games have a shelf life of four to six months, EQ has officially spanned four presidential administrations largely off that kind of support. [...] The game still has a trickle of new players, according to Longdale, but it's understandably hard to attract a whole new generation of young players to a DirectX 9 game with 15-year-old player models and a broken Z-axis (that's correct, you can't go straight up and down in EQ like in WoW) where solo play is darn near impossible.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's creative-thinking department
A PNAS paper published this week outlines a plan to establish 70 islands of solar panels, each 328 feet in diameter, that sends electricity to a hard-hulled ship that acts as an oceanic factory. "This factory uses desalinization and electrolysis equipment to extract hydrogen gas (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the surrounding ocean water," reports Ars Technica. "It then uses these products to create methanol, a liquid fuel that can be added into, or substituted for, transportation fuels. Every so often, a ship comes to offload the methanol and take it to a supply center on land." From the report: The researchers estimated that we would need approximately 170,000 of these solar island systems to be able to produce enough green methanol to replace all fossil fuels used in long-haul transportation. While that seems like a lot, it's theoretically possible, even if we restrict these systems to ocean expanses where waves don't reach more than seven feet high and there's enough sunlight to meet the system's yearly average need.
Still, the authors admit that this is just the description of a possible prototype: whether it's practical to build or not will depend on the cost of the technology that supports the system, as well as the cost of competing forms of energy used in transportation. Cleaning and maintaining this equipment in a marine environment is also a concern, and the researchers admit that there may be room for alternate setups (like making another fuel instead of methanol) that might make more economic sense. For now, though, it's a compelling idea to avoid additional fossil fuel extraction that is within reach using existing technology.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's nice-try-but-we're-not-intuit department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProPublica: Congressional leaders are planning to scrap a provision of an IRS reform bill making permanent the Free File deal between the government and private tax filing companies, torpedoing a long-sought goal by industry giant Intuit, the maker of TurboTax. The development, first reported by Politico Pro and confirmed to ProPublica by a House Republican staffer, comes two months after an outcry sparked by our story on the Free File provision in a bill called the Taxpayer First Act.
The bill, which has bipartisan support and contains a range of provisions including restrictions on the private debt collection of unpaid taxes, passed the House in April but stalled in the Senate. Under the Free File program, the industry promises to offer a no-fee option to most Americans and in return the IRS pledges not to develop its own free, online filing service. Such an IRS program would threaten the industry's profits. Only a small percentage of eligible Americans use the Free File options, and many are instead steered to paid products by the industry. The new bill, without the Free File provision, could be introduced today and voted on in the House as soon as next week, according to Politico. The Free File program will continue as before and will not be codified into law.
"The current deal expires in 2021," reports ProPublica. "The IRS said in May that it was launching an internal review of the program, following our stories on how Intuit, H&R Block and other companies deliberately hid their Free File editions from search engines, making it harder for taxpayers to find them."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's traveling-in-style department
We first earned that Google co-founder Sergey Brin was secretly building a "massive airship" inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center back in 2017, but few details on the project have emerged since. Now, according to a report from the Telegraph, progress on the project appears to be picking up as Brin is currently soliciting aerospace engineers to work on his blimp from a hangar in Mountain View, California. From a report: At 656 feet in length, the massive craft is expected to be the largest of its kind in the world upon completion, and it's reportedly costing Brin upwards of $150 million to construct. Some of that money will presumably go toward paying the $28 per hour salary and pension benefits Brin is offering entry level engineers to work on the project, according to the Telegraph piece, which notes that the job listing also requires that applicants be "comfortable working outdoors."
As for why Brin wants to build this massive blimp, sources with knowledge of the project told The Guardian in 2017 that the Google billionaire plans to use craft as an intercontinental "air yacht," ferrying his friends and family around the globe in style. The blimp will also find use on the other end of the privilege spectrum, according to those sources, who told the newspaper that Brin envisions using it to deliver supplies and food to remote locations on humanitarian missions.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's forgotten-heroes department
dryriver writes: In 1942, Allied troops tried to invade a French port at Dieppe. The troop landing was a disaster -- within 10 hours, 60% of the 6,000 allied troops that landed were dead, and all 28 tanks that were supposed to support the troops had been picked off by mines and anti-tank weapons. The Allies realized that conventional tank designs were next to useless when landing on heavily fortified sandy beaches. A British army commander named Percy Hobart had the solution. Over two years, he designed completely new and unconventional tanks like the Churchill AVRE, Sherman Crab and and Churchill Fascine that were custom-made to storm a mined beach defended by an enemy army.
Commander Hobart had initially fallen out of favor, been retired early from the British army for his "unconventional thinking" and demoted, humiliatingly, to guarding his home village in Britain. When he managed to set up a meeting with Winston Churchill, Churchill reinstated Hobart, and Hobart went on to design some of the strangest looking beach lading tanks anyone had seen at that time. Hobart's tanks carried everything from flamethrowers intended to frighten German soldiers into surrendering to fascines (essentially a huge bundle of sticks) that could be dropped to allow other tanks to drive over deep ditches and trenches, to huge mortars firing shells the size of dustbins that were designed to blow holes into seawalls and concrete fortifications. The tank designs performed as Hobart had intended, and the D-Day victory would not have been possible without them. A man who had once demoted to Corporal and retired for rubbing the British army brass the wrong way went on to make D-Day winnable for the Allied forces.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's remembering-one-of-the-greatest-in-the-field department
"In recent years, The New York Times has been publishing obituaries of people long dead but who nevertheless would have been deserving of one when they died," writes Slashdot reader necro81. "They call it their 'Overlooked' series. Today, their overlooked figure is British mathematician and prototype computer scientist Alan Turing." Here's an excerpt from the obituary: His genius embraced the first visions of modern computing and produced seminal insights into what became known as "artificial intelligence." As one of the most influential code breakers of World War II, his cryptology yielded intelligence believed to have hastened the Allied victory. But, at his death several years later, much of his secretive wartime accomplishments remained classified, far from public view in a nation seized by the security concerns of the Cold War. Instead, by the narrow standards of his day, his reputation was sullied.
On June 7, 1954, Alan Turing, a British mathematician who has since been acknowledged as one the most innovative and powerful thinkers of the 20th century -- sometimes called the progenitor of modern computing -- died as a criminal, having been convicted under Victorian laws as a homosexual and forced to endure chemical castration. Britain didn't take its first steps toward decriminalizing homosexuality until 1967. Only in 2009 did the government apologize for his treatment. [...] A coroner determined that he had died of cyanide poisoning and that he had taken his own life "while the balance of his mind was disturbed."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's another-one-bites-the-dust department
The Google Trips app is headed into the sunset as functionality is integrated into Google's other services. 9to5Google reports: Our APK Insight of Google Trips for Android today reveals an upcoming "goodbye" message that will prompt users about the sunsetting. Google already implied in May that a shutdown for the dedicated was coming as part of an evolution. We now know specifics, like how Google will "stop supporting" the app. Trips will encourages users to find "favorite features" in other services like the new Travel website that features a Material Theme, and the Google Search app. Full feature parity -- namely offline capabilities and maps -- will likely make their way to Google Maps, which is set to add trip bundles over the coming months.
The "learn more" page has been spotted by XDA with Google noting that support "will end on August 5, 2019." According to the help document, notes from Trips will be coming to the Google Travel website, while Google Maps trip reservations will be located in Your places-Upcoming reservations. However, version 1.14 leaves some ambiguity on whether the app will stop working for existing users that already have it installed. A pair of strings -- one of which is in past tense -- implies that Trips could continue to function, but that some features will break in the future. As of today, this sunset prompt is not yet live in Google Trips for Android or iOS, and the apps are still available to download.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica, written by Wired's . Andy Greenberg: In upcoming versions of iOS and macOS, the new Find My feature will broadcast Bluetooth signals from Apple devices even when they're offline, allowing nearby Apple devices to relay their location to the cloud. That should help you locate your stolen laptop even when it's sleeping in a thief's bag. And it turns out that Apple's elaborate encryption scheme is also designed not only to prevent interlopers from identifying or tracking an iDevice from its Bluetooth signal, but also to keep Apple itself from learning device locations, even as it allows you to pinpoint yours.
In a background phone call with WIRED following its keynote, Apple broke down that privacy element, explaining how its "encrypted and anonymous" system avoids leaking your location data willy nilly, even as your devices broadcast a Bluetooth signal explicitly designed to let you track your device. The solution to that paradox, it turns out, is a trick that requires you to own at least two Apple devices. Each one emits a constantly changing key that nearby Apple devices use to encrypt and upload your geolocation data, such that only the other Apple device you own possesses the key to decrypt those locations. That system would obviate the threat of marketers or other snoops tracking Apple device Bluetooth signals, allowing them to build their own histories of every user's location. In fact, Find My's cryptography goes one step further than that, denying even Apple itself the ability to learn a user's locations based on their Bluetooth beacons. That would represent a privacy improvement over Apple's older tools like Find My iPhone and Find Friends, which don't offer such safeguards against Apple learning your location.Read Replies (0)