And I for one welcome our new insect overlords...
In a decision that was reversed as soon as someone with half a brain in their PR department learned about it, Verizon charged a widow a $350 early termination fee. After the death of her marine husband, Michaela Brummund decided to move back to her home town to be with her family. Verizon doesn't offer any coverage in the small town so Michaela tried to cancel her contract, only to be hit with an early termination fee. From the article: "'I called them to cancel. I told them the situation with my husband. I even said I would provide a death certificate,' Michaela said."
danielkennedy74 writes "Newsweek.com becomes the latest in a long list of sites that will reveal an Easter egg if you enter the Konami code correctly (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, enter). This is a cheat code that appeared in many of Konami's video games, starting around 1986 — my favorite places to use it were Contra and Life Force, 30 lives FTW. The Easter egg was probably included by a developer unbeknownst to the Newsweek powers that be. It's reminiscent of an incident that happened at ESPN last year, involving unicorns."
hightechchick writes "Staples' business-to-business sales of backup tape for storage are experiencing a bit of a revival. What's next, a return to dumb terminals and mainframes (a la cloud computing)?"
SKYMTL writes "In a tongue-in-cheek commentary, Valve has announced the delay of Portal 2 and thrown water on the rumor fires regarding its E3 'surprise.' This surprise was rumored to be either Half-Life 3 or the revival of Duke Nukem, and it looks like neither will happen anytime soon."
cremeglace writes "No one had seen a laser reflector that Soviet scientists had left on the moon almost 40 years ago, despite years of searching. Turns out searchers had been looking kilometers in the wrong direction. On 22 April, a team of physicists finally saw an incredibly faint flash from the reflector, which was ferried across the lunar surface by the Lunokhod 1 rover. The find comes thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which last month imaged a large area where the rover was reported to have been left. Then the researchers, led by Tom Murphy of the University of California, San Diego, could search one football-field-size area at a time until they got a reflection."
On Monday Electronic Arts launched Lord of Ultima, a free-to-play, browser-based strategy game that's based on the Ultima universe. Quoting VG247: "Set in the new world of Caledonia, players start the game as conquerors raising an empire, and then move from developing a village to evolving it into a highly customized capital. Players can be peaceful merchants by trading resources over land or sea and using diplomacy, or become feared conquerors using armies of knights and mages to crush their enemies one by one in maniacal glee."
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from 1Up: "Trouble is brewing in Rapture. The recently released Sinclair Solutions multiplayer pack for BioShock 2 is facing upset players over the revelation that the content is already on the disc, and the $5 premium is an unlock code. It started when users on the 2K Forums noticed that the content is incredibly small: 24KB on the PC, 103KB on the PlayStation 3, and 108KB on the Xbox 360. 2K Games responded with a post explaining that the decision was made in order to keep the player base intact, without splitting it between the haves and have-nots."
Several readers have written with a fun followup to yesterday's IE6 funeral. Apparently Microsoft, in a rare moment of self-jest, took the time to send flowers, condolences, and a promise to meet at MIX. The card reads: "Thanks for the good times IE6, see you all @ MIX when we show a little piece of IE Heaven. The Internet Explorer Team @ Microsoft."
Citing massive growth in their user base ("25 million users, 1000+ games, 12 billion player minutes per month, and 75 billion Steam client minutes per month"), Valve unveiled a revamped UI for Steam on Tuesday, opening the beta test to anyone who wants to try it out. There are many changes, and an increased focus on social features: "Right from within your own game Library, you can now track which of your friends plays each game or invite them to play one with you. Before you've even bought a game, knowing whether your friends play it is one of the most useful pieces of information to have. So on the store homepage, there's a new listing of what your friends have bought or played lately." Tracking games and achievements have both gotten simpler, and Valve has dropped the Internet Explorer rendering engine in favor of WebKit. An enterprising user also found files that may indicate the existence of an OS X Steam client.
You can buy and sell actor or movie "stock" for virtual cash on the website Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX). Starting in April the company plans on letting you turn those movie performance predictions into real dollars. HSX filed with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission for approval as an active trading site in November 2008 and has just entered the final phase of regulatory review. Richard Jaycobs, president of HSX's parent company, said, "The number of people who visit movie theaters each year and form opinions about a film's success is in the tens of millions. We believe that's the reason the public response to this product has been very positive."
DJRumpy writes "The Danish political scientist Bjørn Lomborg won fame and fans by arguing that many of the alarms sounded by environmental activists and scientists — that species are going extinct at a dangerous rate, that forests are disappearing, that climate change could be catastrophic — are bogus. A big reason Lomborg was taken seriously is that both of his books, The Skeptical Environmentalist (in 2001) and Cool It (in 2007), have extensive references, giving a seemingly authoritative source for every one of his controversial assertions. So in a display of altruistic masochism that we should all be grateful for (just as we're grateful that some people are willing to be dairy farmers), author Howard Friel has checked every single citation in Cool It. The result is The Lomborg Deception, which is being published by Yale University Press next month. It reveals that Lomborg's work is 'a mirage,' writes biologist Thomas Lovejoy in the foreword. '[I]t is a house of cards. Friel has used real scholarship to reveal the flimsy nature' of Lomborg's work."
eldavojohn writes "I have a slightly older friend who played through the glory days of Ultima Online. Yes, their servers are still up and running, but he often waxes nostalgic about certain gameplay functions of UO that he misses. I must say that these aspects make me smile and wonder what it would be like to play in such a world — things like housing, thieving and looting that you don't see in the most popular massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. So, I've followed him through a few games, including Darkfall and now Mortal Online. And these (seemingly European developed) games are constantly fading into obscurity and never catching hold. We constantly move from one to the next. Does anyone know of a popular three-dimensional game that has UO-like rules and gameplay? Perhaps one that UO players gravitated to after leaving UO? If you think that the very things that have been removed (housing and thieving would be two good topics) caused WoW to become the most popular MMO, why is that? Do UO rules not translate well to a true 3D environment? Are people incapable of planning for corpse looting? Are players really that inept that developers don't want to leave us in control of risk analysis? I'm familiar with the Bartle Test but if anyone could point me to more resources as to why Killer-oriented games have faded out of popularity, I'd be interested."
e3m4n writes "The fictitious 'good samaritan' law from the final episode of Seinfeld (the one that landed them in jail for a year) appears to be headed toward reality for California residents after the house passed this bill. There are some differences, such as direct action is not required, but the concept of guilt by association for not doing the right thing is still on the face of the bill."