Since the announcement of Star Wars: The Old Republic, many gamers have been hopeful that its high budget, respected development team and rich universe will be enough to provide a real challenge to the WoW juggernaut. An opinion piece at 1Up makes the case that BioWare's opportunity to do so may have already passed. Quoting: "While EA and BioWare Austin have the horsepower needed to at least draw even with World of Warcraft though, what we've seen so far has been worryingly conventional — even generic — given the millions being poured into development. Take the opening areas around Tython, which Mike Nelson describes in his most recent preview as being 'rudimentary,' owing to their somewhat generic, grind-driven quest design. Running around killing a set number of 'Flesh Raiders' in a relatively quiet village doesn't seem particularly epic, but that's the route BioWare Austin seems to be taking with the opening areas for the Jedi — what will surely be the most popular classes when The Old Republic is released. ... the real concern, though, is not so much in the quest design as in BioWare Austin's apparent willingness to play follow the leader. Whenever something becomes a big hit — be it a movie, game or book — there's always a mad scramble to replicate the formula; in World of Warcraft's case, that mad scramble has been going for six years now. "
An anonymous reader writes "Think that the exploration of space is a high tech business? Technology dating back to the Apollo moon landings is still used by Nasa mission control for comms and the 1980s 386 processors that keep the International Space Station aloft."
mikesd81 writes "According to Gartner research firm, Google's Android smartphone operating system will in a single year have leapfrogged competitors like Apple's iPhone, Research in Motion's Blackberry and Microsoft Windows phones in global popularity, and will challenge Nokia to become the world's most popular mobile OS by 2014. Gartner says that the explosive growth of Android will give it 17.7% of world wide sales by the end of 2010. ... Analysts also say there are number of things that could derail Android's growth, including Oracle's lawsuit over Java patents."
Reader SheeEttin reminds us that back in October, the Supreme Court accepted a case testing whether or not petition signers' names could be kept anonymous. (The premise was that the act of signing a petition is covered by free speech, and thus signers are entitled to anonymity, especially to protect them from harassment.) Now the Court has issued its ruling: signatures are part of the public record. "By a strong majority Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a setback for opponents of gay marriage who wanted to keep their identities secret. The justices favored transparency over privacy in a case testing whether signing a petition is a public act. The case began with a bill that the Washington state legislature passed in 2009, expanding the state's domestic partnership law. The new referendum was known as 'everything but marriage' for the enhanced rights it gave same-sex couples. People who opposed the bill gathered 120,000 signatures for a ballot measure asking voters to repeal it. That measure eventually reached Washington voters, who upheld 'everything but marriage.' Those who signed the repeal petition feared that they would be harassed if their names became public, so they went to court challenging Washington's Public Records Act. They argued that signing a petition is speech that is protected from disclosure. But in Thursday's 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed. 'Such disclosure does not, as a general matter, violate the first amendment,' Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court."
UgLyPuNk writes "This could be a good thing or a bad thing: EA has just confirmed that it's making Mass Effect into a movie. The franchise has been acquired by Legendary Pictures, which is best known for its co-productions of The Dark Knight, Clash of the Titans, 300, Watchmen, and, um, The Hangover, as part of a co-financing agreement with Warner Bros."
xkcd really hit the nail on the head today.
Blizzard announced today that the multiplayer beta test for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is now underway. The client downloader is available through Battle.net for people who have received invites, and the system requirements have been posted as well. A list of known issues is up on the official forums. StarCraft II and the revamped Battle.net are planned for release "in the first half of 2010."
markass530 writes "An iPhone insurance carrier says that four in six claims are suspicious, and is worse when a new model appears on the market. 'Supercover Insurance is alleging that many iPhone owners are deliberately smashing their devices and filing false claims in order to upgrade to the latest model. The gadget insurance company told Sky News Sunday that it saw a 50-percent rise in claims during the month Apple launched the latest version, the iPhone 3GS.'"
D H NG writes "Following a sophisticated attack on Google infrastructure originating from China late last year, Google has decided to take 'a new approach' to China. In their investigation, Google found that more than 20 large companies had been infiltrated and dozens of Chinese human rights activists' Gmail accounts had been compromised. Google has decided to 'review the feasibility of [its] business operations in China,' no longer censoring results in Google.cn, and if necessary, to 'shut down Google.cn, and potentially [Google's] offices in China.'"
stadium writes "An oil-filled transformer exploded at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant in Siberia, destroying three turbines and bringing down the ceiling of the turbine hall, which then violently flooded. The dam itself did not sustain any damage. It is unclear how many people were killed, but with 12 confirmed deaths and as many as 64 still missing (all presumed dead), this is a serious incident. The huge transformer had enough oil in it to produce a three-mile-long oil spill slowly moving downriver. BBC News reports with three separate videos. The dam produces a quarter of the total energy of RusHydro (whose stock thus took a steep dive at London Stock Exchange) and also feeds the world's largest aluminum smelter. The damages will take years to repair."
wisesifu writes with news of a new open source NX server, dubbed NeatX, that was released by Google and promptly lost in the shuffle of the Chrome OS announcement. "NX technology was developed by NoMachine to handle remote X Window connections and make a graphical desktop display usable over the Internet. By its own admission, Google has been looking at remote desktop technologies for 'quite a while' and decided to develop Neatx as existing NX server products are either proprietary or difficult to maintain. 'The good old X Window system can be used over the network, but it has issues with network latency and bandwidth. Neatx remedies some of these issues,' Google engineers wrote on the company's open source blog. NoMachine had released parts of the source code to its NX product under the GPL, but the NX server remained proprietary. [...] Neatx is written in Python, with a few wrapper scripts in Bash and one program written in C 'for performance reasons.'"
Extreme economic problems require extreme solutions, and Wells Fargo Bank has come up with a good one. They have decided to sue themselves. Wells Fargo holds the first and second mortgages on a condominium that is going into foreclosure. As holder of the first, they are suing all other lien holders, including the holder of the second, which is Wells Fargo. It gets better. The company has hired a lawyer to defend itself against its own lawsuit. The defense lawyer even filed this answer to the complaint, "Defendant admits that it is the owner and holder of a mortgage encumbering the subject real property. All other allegations of the complaint are denied." On the website The Consumer Warning Network, Angie Moreschi wrote: "We've apparently reached the perfect storm for complete and utter idiocy by some banks trying to foreclose on homes."
Today Google announced that they're removing the "beta" label from Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk. They said, "We've come to appreciate that the beta tag just doesn't fit for large enterprises that aren't keen to run their business on software that sounds like it's still in the trial phase." Quoting the NYTimes: "'Obviously we haven't had a consistent set of policies or definitions around beta,' said Matt Glotzbach, a director of product management at Google. Mr. Glotzbach said that different teams at Google had different criteria for what beta meant, and that Google felt a need to standardize those. ... Practically speaking, the change will mean precious little to Gmail's millions of users. But it could help Google's efforts to get the paid version of its package of applications, which includes Gmail, Calendar, Docs and other products, adopted inside big companies."
Barence writes "Google is considering removing the beta tag from Gmail — and other online services — a mere five years after it was first launched. Google has become somewhat synonymous with seemingly endless beta cycles. Many of the company's most famous services, including Gmail, Docs, and Calendar all still carry the beta tag. Google now admits the eternal beta cycles could be damaging consumer and business confidence in its online apps. 'It's a minor annoyance and something you'll see addressed in the not-too-distant future.'"
PLSQL Guy writes "Duke Nukem Forever developer 3D Realms is shutting down, according to Shacknews. They cite 'a reliable source close to the company,' who said the developer is finished and employees have already been let go. It looks like all of the Duke Nukem Forever jokes are turning into reality; DNF might turn out to be the ultimate vaporware after all." 3D Realms' webmaster, Joe Siegler, confirmed the closing, saying that he didn't know about it even a day beforehand. Apogee and Deep Silver, who are working on a different set of Duke Nukem games (referred to as the Duke Nukem Trilogy) say they are not affected by the problems at 3D Realms.