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Comment Farm roads in Texas (Score 3, Interesting) 524

When I was growing up, some of our smaller -- but paved -- farm roads (sometimes called farm-to-market roads) here in rural Texas were single-lane roads with no center stripe. That seemed to work pretty well, granted that the traffic was very light. People who lived out in the country were used to driving on single-lane dirt roads -- county roads -- anyhow, so the wider and paved road was a comfortable step up.

Then an order came down from above that all paved state roads must be at least TWO LANE. And since there was no money available to actually widen any of them. . . Yep, they just painted a stripe down the middle of the one-lane roads and called it two lanes! Two very narrow lanes. Thus, where before we had crowded to the edge of the road when passing somehow, now we are crowded to the edge of the road all the time. And there's no shoulder. This is NOT an improvement.

Comment Re:Forth (Score 1) 414

Calling it "inverted lisp" is interesting. . . I never learned Lisp, but I learned Logo, which comes from the same family. I always thought of Logo and MUF (the only Forth I've used) as opposites. Logo composes everything recursively, and MUF composes everything on the stack. Lesson learned: stack operations are massively more efficient than recursion!

However, they both suffered from a particular readability problem: In both Logo and Forth you can't look at some code and know which inputs go to which words unless you already know how many inputs each word accepts. Which means you spend a lot of time constantly looking them up, or else guessing. Compare with C (and the many many other C-like languages) where function inputs (arguments!) are explicitly in parentheses, separated by commas. No guessing required.

Comment MUF (Multi-User Forth) (Score 1) 414

MUF is a scripting language used on a lot of MUCKs, and it's definitely a dialect of Forth -- although later versions have added a lot of more "modern" language features to take some of the boneheadedness out of it. It has become possible to code it almost as if it were C, using lists and local variables rather than wrangling ever more confusing stacks of stuff on the stack. At the same time, MUF remains just alien enough to scare away the common rabble from ever trying to learn it.

Comment Re:Yes, it's time. (Score 1) 702

You're trying too hard. That much upheaval isn't needed. (I started to say that much "change" isn't needed, but caught myself!)

If we just got rid of the cent and the nickel and the $1 bill, it would be a big improvement. We already have a perfectly serviceable $1 coin. The only reason people don't use it much is because the $1 bill has all the inertia in the world. (I have no idea what you meant about the color. I've never seen a $1 coin turn the color of a quarter, unless both coins were covered with something like paint!)

The only problem is, if the dime is the smallest denomination, but we still have the quarter, then you get into a situation where sometimes you have to round to the nearest ten cents and other times to the nearest five. Awk-ward. Replacing the quarter with a newer and less clunky fifty-cent piece might be worth contemplating.

I'm ambivalent about the $2 bill. They might see more usage with the $1 bill gone, but we could probably get by just fine without either of them.

Some kind of reform is long overdue, but what's really messed things up is all the lobbyists. The paper mills have fought hard to keep the $1 bill alive. Meanwhile, the vending machine industry lobbied hard for the $1 coin, claiming it would save them bazillions on bill-changing mechanisms -- but most vending machines still won't accept $1 coins and still have bill-changing mechanisms, so that was apparently just BS.

We'll end up going cashless before all of this is straightened out.

Comment Re:My prediction (Score 1) 106

Uhhh... I'm not sure what you mean about "no Apple OSX or Linux support". You're not talking about SL, are you? The viewers have run on Mac and Linux for well over ten years already. (It is partly responsible for my loyalty to SL, since many of the other virtual worlds -- such as There and Blue Mars -- never came out with Mac support, and I sure wasn't going to buy a new computer just to try them!)

Actually, now I find myself contemplating the purchase of a Windows PC for the first time in many years. It has become clear that a lot of games simply perform better on Windows (presumably because those games target DirectX), and VR headset support is going to be strongest on Windows, and I'm just tired of riding against the wind all the time. But the PC will be strictly for games and VR. I'll be sticking with my Mac for everything else.

As for SL being very outdated. . . It has been upgraded and improved many times over the years. We got voice chat, we got mesh object import, avatars look 100% better now, etc. But yes, SL is still haunted by architectural decisions made long ago, in another era. I think the intent with Project Sansar is to make a clean break somewhat like Apple did when going from Mac System 8/9 to Mac OS X.

Comment Re:Article Author Here (Score 1) 106

Thanks for joining us, and thanks for writing the piece!

I am one of those who hasn't yet tried on a current headset. I'm eager, I'm chomping at the bit! I did play a VR game in the arcade 20 years ago -- Dactyl Nightmare -- and it was what I might call a "Pong experience": obviously crude and limited, yet there was the thrill of doing something entirely new and seeing that it worked at all. It was fun.

I have to shake my head over all the comparisons with 3D TV or with various gimmicky controllers for game consoles. VR falls into a completely different category. This is a whole new ball game.

A lot of people don't know that Linden Labs originally began as a VR hardware company. They started to research into headsets, but then realized they would have no compelling content for one. So, they started to create a virtual world, which grew and spiraled into Second Life, and the VR hardware project was forgotten. But there's an important point. . . Simulated worlds, shared 3D virtual worlds, have undergone great development over the last 20 years. On the software side, the groundwork has been laid for VR. Now it's time for the hardware to catch up.

Comment Re:VR will suck until Nintendo shows how to do it (Score 1) 106

Allow me to set you straight on a few points of fact. . . You wrote that the Virtual Boy failed because of "the uncomfortable headset and being tied [to] one location with wires". Virtual Boy was not a headset (because it wasn't anything resembling VR, as I've already pointed out), and it didn't tie you to one location with wires any more than any other non-portable game console does. It was simply a tabletop videogame console that made you awkwardly shove your face into the display. And gave you 3D. But took away color.

Virtual Boy didn't fail from being VR, because it wasn't VR. It didn't fail from being (falsely) marketed as VR, because any dummy who looked at it could see that it wasn't VR, no matter how Nintendo may have tried to spin it that way. It failed because it was teh sux.

The majority of the VR headsets that are coming don't tie you down into one spot. None of the phone-based ones do, and the HTC Vive allows tracking anywhere in a room. You can still trip over the Vive's cables, though. (Probably. Unless going wireless is the "big breakthrough" that they're going to show at CES.)

I don't think you have any basis for saying VR is going to fail. You say 3D TV failed (even though they are still being made and sold), but VR isn't anything like 3D TV. You say the 3DS failed, and I'm struggling to even remember what a 3DS is, or why it could possibly be relevant to the discussion. And then you say "it just isn't as compelling a feature as people seem to think it is", which directly contradicts every single account that I've heard from everybody who has been through the demos. I think I'll take their word over yours.

Comment Re:It will be as succesful... (Score 1) 106

The comparison of 3D TV and VR is indeed interesting. . .but complicated. (Or maybe interesting *because* it's complicated.)

The biggest factor in 3D TV's decline seems to be lack of content -- very few movies were actually shot in 3D, but instead we were given a lot of cheap conversions and no easy way to identify them as such before watching. Hollywood really dropped the ball on this. Also. . . Movies have been pretty well developed as an art form in 2D for many decades, and this seems a bit like an effort to fix what wasn't broken. Furthermore, a 2D motion picture, especially when there's any sort of camera movement (panning, especially), already provides a lot of unconscious depth information.

BTW, 3D TVs are still selling. Most of the higher-spec TVs on the market still include the 3D feature. I find it useful for viewing stereo photos taken with my Fujifilm REAL 3D W3 camera. Stereo photography has a history of huge, mass-market success -- now mostly forgotten. In the 1800s, before automobiles and consumer-ready box cameras caught on, professional photographers went around the country and around the world shooting 3D images and printing them on Holmes stereo cards. Peddlers would then go house-to-house selling bundles of stereo cards, and that was how you got to see the world. A virtual vacation!

The Fuji isn't a great camera in 2D terms, but the stereo images really are striking and beautiful when shown on my TV set. And stereo photos are especially well suited to some kinds of subject matter -- like plants and trees, which often seem to turn into a camouflage-like jumble in mere 2D images.

Getting back to VR. . . I am very skeptical of watching movies in VR. It doesn't make sense to me. You can't move around freely. You can't interact with your surroundings. It's not "VR" in a conventional sense of the term. It's just. . . 3D TV, with poor resolution, plus head tracking. And the head tracking seems like more of a problem than a benefit, since you may be looking the wrong direction when the action starts. I won't be surprised if VR cinema is a flop, but so what? That's not what VR was really about anyhow.

VR is best, and makes more sense, when putting you into a dynamic simulation. Many games are dynamic simulations, so that's a natural fit. And the game industry is huge. It's bigger than the music industry, and it's bigger than the movie industry. All this hand-wringing in the blogosphere about the need for VR to "reach beyond games to find a mainstream audience" is bunk. Games are mainstream.

Comment Re:My prediction (Score 1) 106

But it's not just Oculus Rift. If FB manages to screw it all up, there will still be Playstation VR and HTC Vive and Razer OSVR and even (heaven help us!) Vrvana Totem. Personally, I'm holding out for the Vive. It has better tracking, it has Valve+Steam, and it's not FB. Seems like an easy choice.

And as for people wanting to get their hands dirty. . . I would direct your attention to Linden Labs and Project Sansar.

Linden Labs have been running Second Life for well over 10 years already. It didn't set the world on fire the way some people predicted (hyped) in the beginning, but it's still chugging along and making money. One of my friends who studies a lot of this stuff concluded that SL only appeals to a certain type of personality: those who can entertain themselves. Give them a great toy box and sandbox where they can tinker and create things, and show them off, and trade or sell them, and they're happy. On the other hand, people who come into SL expecting to play a game or be led through a story soon lose interest.

Linden Labs are making a successor to SL called Project Sansar, and compatibility with VR headsets is a design goal. They claim it will have the most accessible content creation tools ever. This is the number one thing on my wish list.

Comment TFA is pretty good (Score 2) 106

The article presents the most optimistic possible scenario, in which VR catches on like wildfire (or like smartphones did!), followed by massive investment and rapid technological progress. It's a scenario at one end of the spectrum of possible outcomes -- but it's not implausible, it's not crazy. We've seen this kind of shift before.

At the other end of the spectrum, it's possible that the awkwardness and expense of VR headsets (especially the high-spec ones for PCs) may hold things back, and VR may not explode into the mainstream. Even if this happens, though, I can't see it flopping completely. VR technology is simply too useful, and useful for too many things (beyond games), to just go away.

Interesting mention in TFA of Second Life. . . QUOTE: "In 2017 a clear leader will emerge in the field of social VR platforms, and it will look something like Secondlife but in VR. If it’s not facebook itself as the platform, then facebook will try to acquire whoever makes such a platform stably with good adoption during the 2017 year."

Of course, Linden Labs are still running Second Life (after all these years!) and are making steady money from it. They are adapting it to work with VR headsets, and they are also developing a successor world, called Project Sansar, which is designed with a focus on VR. I am very eager to see how this turns out.

Comment Re:VR will suck until Nintendo shows how to do it (Score 1) 106

Same answer I give to everybody who brings up the Virtual Boy. . . .

Virtual Boy wasn't VR. Virtual Boy had no connection with VR aside from the word "virtual". Nintendo: "Hey, let's slap the word virtual on this turkey, and these idiot kids will think it has actually something to do with virtual reality, and they'll buy it! Hahaha!" Yeah, how did that work out? Turns out the kids aren't so dumb.

(I've got the feeling I'll be cut-and-pasting this a lot.)

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