"I would say yes. When I was a teen my mother walked into my room and started moaning..." I thought this was going to go somewhere else...
Yesterday Sony launched the open beta for PlayStation Home, the virtual world designed for PlayStation Network community members. Eurogamer has an in-depth look at the features of Home. They point out some glaring weaknesses, such as a poor communication system, a flawed business model, and the inability to form groups without entering games, something the recently revamped Xbox interface does better. "It's not alienating, it's easy to identify with, and the socialising and advertising are entirely in context. But you're left pondering the inevitable question: why would you want to spend any time here?" Home's debut to the public saw a few typical launch-day problems, but Sony was quick to address them and get things back on track. Gizmodo has some screenshots and basic information available.
Antiglobalism writes "Scientists say they have found a workable way of reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere by adding lime to seawater. And they think it has the potential to dramatically reverse CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, reports Cath O'Driscoll in SCI's Chemistry & Industry magazine published today."
An anonymous reader writes "C|net is highlighting the astonishing cost of Apple laptop hardware upgrades, compared to Dell — in some instances, Apple is charging 200% more for upgraded components, such as memory and hard disks. Either there's a serious difference in the quality of components being used, or Apple is quite literally ripping off those who aren't able to upgrade hardware themselves."
vsync64 writes "Last night, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) spent 4 hours reading into the Congressional Record 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. Interestingly, those articles (63-page PDF via Coral CDN) include not just complaints about signing statements and the war in Iraq, but also charges that the President "Sp[ied] on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment,' 'Direct[ed] Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens,' and 'Tamper[ed] with Free and Fair Elections.' These are issues near and dear to the hearts of many here, so it's worth discussing. What little mainstream media coverage there is tends to be brief (USA Today, CBS News, UPI, AP, Reuters)." The (Democratic) House leadership has said that the idea of impeachment is "off the table." The Judiciary Committee has not acted on articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney introduced by Kucinich a year ago.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "The tower of Pisa began to lean five years after its construction began, in 1178, and by 1990 it had tilted more than four meters off its true vertical. Conservationists estimated that the entire 14,500-ton structure would collapse 'some time between 2030 and 2040.' Now the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been stabilized and declared safe for at least another three centuries. The stabilization, which cost $30M, was accomplished by anchoring it to cables and lead counterweights, while 70 tons of soil were removed from the side away from the lean, and cement was injected into the ground to relieve the pressure. The tilt has now returned to where it was in the early 19th century. Nicholas Shrady, author of Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa, says that the tower was destined to lean from the outset because it was built on 'what is essentially a former bog.' Shrady adds that the tower previously came close to collapsing in 1838, 1934, and 1995. (The commission convened in 1990 to study the tower's stability was the 17th such.) Although Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped cannon balls from the tower in a gravity experiment, Shrady says the myth is the result of 'the overripe imagination of Galileo's secretary and first biographer, Vincenzo Viviani.'"
Roland Piquepaille writes "An international team of scientists has found a strange ring around a dead star by using images taken by NASA's Spitzer space telescope. This star, called SGR 1900+14, belongs to a class of objects known as magnetars. According to NASA, a magnetar is 'a highly magnetized neutron star and the remnant of a brilliant supernova explosion signaling the death throes of a massive star.' So far, about a dozen magnetars have been found. An amazing thing about these stellar objects is their magnetic field. One of the researchers said that 'magnetars possess magnetic fields a million billion times stronger than the magnetic field of the Earth.'
Ant sends in a disturbing report in The Scientist on an imminent threat to worldwide banana production. "The banana we eat today is not the one your grandparents ate. That one — known as the Gros Michel — was, by all accounts, bigger, tastier, and hardier than the variety we know and love, which is called the Cavendish. The unavailability of the Gros Michel is easily explained: it is virtually extinct. Introduced to our hemisphere in the late 19th century, the Gros Michel was almost immediately hit by a blight that wiped it out by 1960. The Cavendish was adopted at the last minute by the big banana companies — Chiquita and Dole — because it was resistant to that blight, a fungus known as Panama disease... [Now] Panama disease — or Fusarium wilt of banana — is back, and the Cavendish does not appear to be safe from this new strain, which appeared two decades ago in Malaysia, spread slowly at first, but is now moving at a geometrically quicker pace. There is no cure, and nearly every banana scientist says that though Panama disease has yet to hit the banana crops of Latin America, which feed our hemisphere, the question is not if this will happen, but when. Even worse, the malady has the potential to spread to dozens of other banana varieties, including African bananas, the primary source of nutrition for millions..."
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Wired has an interview with MediaDefender in which they try to explain why they attacked Revision3, which uses BitTorrent to host its own content. Somehow it eluded MediaDefender that they had injected fake content into Revision3's tracker, so when Revision3 changed configuration to forbid this injection, MediaDefender's systems saw it as a pirate tracker with lots of illegal content (which MediaDefender had put there) and attacked. In other words, everything they did was intentional except for the choice of target. Given that they have 9 Gbps of bandwidth dedicated to denial-of-service attacks against torrent trackers, all anyone needs to do is to trick them into attacking a hospital or government facility. MediaDefender has never been very competent, after all."
Those who enjoy drinking beer, playing video games, and (oddly enough) peeing in urinals may be able to reach true nirvana after all. "Place to Pee" is a new video game that relies on a player's ability to hit sensors in a urinal to control game play. While this may seem extremely male-centric, don't worry, ladies, the game designers have thought of you too, and have designed a specialized paper cone for participation. Man, it's a bad day to be a janitor.
buzzardsbay writes "While technologies such as virtualization, multi-threading, and blade servers have made the data center leaner, those who work there are getting... well... not leaner. According to a new study by CareerBuilder.com, 34 percent of IT workers say they have gained more than ten pounds in their current jobs. And 16 percent say they've gained at least twice that. The culprits seem to be the stressful-yet-sedentary nature of tech work coupled with our famously poor eating habits. According to the survey, some 41 percent of IT workers eat out for lunch twice or more per week, making portion and calorie control difficult. Eleven percent buy their lunch out of a vending machine at least once a week."
A bill that could allocate more than $1 billion over the next eight years to combat those who trade in child pornography has been unanimously approved by a Senate panel. "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to send an amended version of the Combating Child Exploitation Act, chiefly sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), to the full slate of politicians for a vote. [...] An amendment adopted Thursday also adds new sections to the original bill that would rewrite existing child pornography laws. One section is designed to make it clear that live Webcam broadcasts of child abuse are illegal, which the bill's authors argue is an "open question." Another change is aimed at closing another perceived loophole, prohibiting digital alteration of an innocent image of a child so that sexually explicit activity is instead depicted."
Stony Stevenson alerts us to new information on the XP SP3-induced crashes that we discussed a few days back. Jesper Johansson, a former program manager for security policy at Microsoft, is maintaining an ongoing log and support site for users affected by any of several problems triggered by XP3. Machines using AMD hardware, particularly HP desktops, seem to have several modes of failure; others affect Intel machines.