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+ - Cross-platform game development

Submitted by phorm
phorm writes: As a bit of a gamer, hacker, and coder, I've been playing with various 3D development kits for some time. There's actually a lot of choice out there, much of it crossing not only the PC triumvirate, but also into tablet/phone OS's.

However, perhaps one of the reasons we lack major AAA games on Linux is the lack of a AAA engines or dev platforms. Two of the bigger free options are Ogre3d and Irrlicht.

Ogre seems good for those with some coding knowledge who want to jumping into mid-level functionality. It allows for one to quickly develop a polished environment and with decent modern effects. However, sometimes it holds your hand too much to the point where more advanced functionality becomes difficult to implement: notably advanced collision detection and manual objects/terrain. Documentation rot may also be an issue if you're trying to use a newer version with older tutorials. Ogre3d is free and open-source.

Irrlicht, on the other hand, seems to offer flexibility, but definitely holds your hand less. This makes it somewhat more complicated for a mid-level coder to get down to business and see results quickly. Irrlicht is free and open-source

Unity — which targets more AAA game development — has increased Linux support more recently. While it still primarily focuses on Windows development, the producers do seem to recognise that Linux may be an increasingly viable option in the gaming market. Currently Linux desktop publishing is still in preview, but seems to be making good progress.

Lastly, the new kid on the (Linux) block. LeadWerks will be finishing their kickstarter soon, allowing for full Linux support (as well as additional features). Leadwerks is not a free solution, but the ~$100 price for backers won't break the bank. Leadwerks also offers source-code licenses according to their site.

+ - Big-name games abusing app permissions->

Submitted by phorm
phorm writes: While it's no secret that sketchy app vendors tend to ask for unusual permissions on mobile devices, it seems that the "Big Name" companies are joining the fray.

I recently noticed that apps such as Electronic Arts "Need for Speed: Most Wanted" are asking for permissions such as the ability to read contacts.

On android phones, this gives them ability to see your contacts, including how and when you've communicated with contacts on your devices.

One wonders why a game would need to know who's on my call list and when I'm calling them. Is this an issue with dev-houses abusing the permissions of trusting users, or a sign that permissions in apps are still too broad.

It also shows how forward-thinking privacy-wise RIM was for their security model, as Blackberry apps can be set to "always allow", "always deny", or a more secure "prompt on demand" type security elevation. How is it that more popular device OS's still lack such core security functionality?

Link to Original Source
Social Networks

+ - Where do the alone go?-> 1

Submitted by phorm
phorm writes:

Recently the Canadian media has focused in on the story of Amanda Todd, a young girl hounded by bullies until she eventually committed suicide. While the story of bullying — or the horrible impact it can have — is not in itself unique, the somewhat haunting legacy of a video left by Amanda is.

The video — without words — shows Amanda as she holds up a series of notes detailing how a small mistake led to exploitation, isolation, violence, and pain.

The media is abuzz. Politicians are vowing to make a difference, and that things will change. But in the grand scheme, they really don't, do they? This is not a new story. Young people have died before. Politians have made speeches before. Schools will counsel. New rules will be made, and forgotten, left unenforced, or even misused. People will forget. Bullying will continue.

Social media, while allowing friends to stay connected, unfortunately also allows people like Amanda to be continually targetted, reducing the safe-havens for those in the crosshairs.I'm sure many here have stories of their own, and slashdot's own trolls are testiment to the despicableness and persistence of those who will do anything to get a reaction.

Some of us survive, perhaps to become stronger. Some — like Amanda — will not.

For those that know bullying, who have been its victims and survived, is there anything we can do? I watched this video wondering if — had I seen it before it was too late — could I have reached out and made a difference?

Is there a place where young — or perhaps even those not so young — can go where they can realize they aren't alone? In my day, I had friends across the world in IRC. People I didn't know but could talk to and share my thoughts on life. But even then, people who understood my particular situation were few and far between.

So where do they go?
The lost. The depressed. Those that could have a bright future if they can just survive their youth.
Where can they find shelter, to survive or even thrive?

Does such a place exist? How can we keep it safe from the aggressors, and how can we help young people find it.

At the end of the video, Amanda states...
I have nobody.
I need somebody.

How can we help these young people discover that they're not alone?

Link to Original Source

+ - LCD's and pixel warranties

Submitted by phorm
phorm writes: As more and more devices are coming out with dense-pixel displays, it seems that the "x dead pixel" clause in warranties has become prolific with all vendors. Specifically, the clause states that the vendor will only consider a unit defective if the LCD has a certain amount (usually 4-5, but often it's specific as to certain amounts in different parts of the LCD) of dead pixels.

An LCD with a dead pixel is a problem. 2-3 dead pixels would to most be considered a fairly obvious defect.

How is it that the manufacturers get to say what constitutes a real defect or not? We don't have clauses on new cars that say "engine is not considered defective unless 2 or more pistons are seized", so what is it considered acceptable for LCD's.
Moreover, for a new-in-box product, how enforceable are these terms (which are generally not clearly available on packaging)?

For a fee, various suppliers offer anti no-dead-pixel-on-delivery warranty. If the issue is so common, why do people seem to accept it (and what's your recourse if you don't).

Lastly, when dense-pixel displays are often so dense that the human eye can't perceive a single pixel, how do you tell how many are dead (especially when a single "white" pixel is comprised of at least 3 component colors).

+ - Canadian court deciding on music-preview royalties->

Submitted by phorm
phorm writes: The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada is suing various telecommunications companies across Canada over the use of music "previews" (up to 30 seconds) for use as ringtones.

The CBC article is a bit short, but many questions could arise from the lawsuit. While the current lawsuit seems mainly targeted at ringtones, it could perhaps have a broader impact against sites which allow short previews of music, and what would the impact upon self-created ringtones (perhaps clipped from legally purchased music) be?

Link to Original Source

+ - Canadian Revenue Agency refuses to make amends->

Submitted by phorm
phorm writes: After driving a taxpayer into poverty, the CRA (Canadian Eqivilent to the IRS) continues to refuse compensation for its victim. Irvin Leroux honestly paid his taxes, and did not run afoul of the tax agency until 1996. During an audit, the agency accidentally misplaced his receipts, sending them to the shredder. Without the expenses allowed by the receipts, several years of audits against Leroux ballooned to approximately a million dollars, comprised of "owed" back-taxes and penalties. Despite finding that the CRA actually owed Laroux approximately $24,000, no compensation has been offered for the life-destroying costs associated with the debacle. With his assets all lost or seized, Leroux has struggled to live, let alone pay expensive lawyers. His case has been taken up by the "Canadian Constitution Foundation," which will hopefully proving for all citizens that the government can be held accountable for such mistakes.
Link to Original Source
The Almighty Buck

+ - When music licensing collides with other media

Submitted by
phorm writes: "Recently, I've been looking up some various sci-fi shows that seem to have ended prematurely, wondering if perhaps they reached a conclusion on paper/DVD that they did not reach on television. As we all know, many are canceled due to lack of "popular" interest (they may be popular in the geek crowd but not enough of the mainstream), or conflicts with primary actors, etc

According to wikipedia, one series — "Dark skies" — met an interesting demise in that it was several times deemed too expensive to conclude on DVD or other media due to the prohibitive cost of licensing the music. Specifically, the wiki article (which cites other sources) indicates the expense was in "potential costs involved in licensing the period music."

This had led me to wonder: is this another case where lengthy extended copyrights have killed future potential? How often does music kill film, or possibly other media? The last dated notation on this particular movie is from January 2009. For a series that premiered over a decade ago to be killed off by music that is likely even older shows how further and further lengthening of copyright has anything but a beneficial affect upon the entertainment industry overall."

+ - Microsoft Australia says "use IE8 or get lost!-> 1

Submitted by
phorm writes: "Microsoft is running a new contest to promote IE8, which — to users of other browsers — appears to severely lack in professionalism or good taste.
Had this link not been on the official website, I would have had a hard time believing that even they could so have let this one slip past the PR department, however if you visit with firefox, you will get the message that Microsoft has "buried" $10,000 somewhere on the internet, "but you'll never find it using old firefox."

The page goes on further to state that you should "Get rid of it, or get lost"

Is this Microsoft's true attitude, or was this just a poorly worded attempt at humor that slipped through the PR cracks?"

Link to Original Source
The Internet

+ - SPAM filtering for non-email purposes?

Submitted by
phorm writes: "While filtering for SPAM on email and other related mediums seems to be fairly productive, there is a growing issue with SPAM on forums, message-boards, blogs, and other such sites. In many cases, sites use prevention methods such as capchas or question-answer values to try and restrict input to human-only visitors. However, even with such safeguards — and especially with most forms of capchya being cracked fairly often these days — it seems that spammers are becoming an increasing nuisance in this regard.

While searching for plugins or extensions to spamassassin etc I have had little luck finding anything not tied into the email framework. Google searches for PHP-based spam filtering tends to come up with mostly commercial and/or more email-related filters.

Does anyone know of a good system for filtering spam in general messages? Preferably such a system would FOSS, and something with a daemon component (accessible by port or socket) to offer quick response-times."
The Media

+ - 90% of gaming addiction patients not addicted

Submitted by
phorm writes: "BBC is carrying an article which states that 90% of visitors to Europe's "video game addiction clinic" are not, in fact, addicted. The problem is a social one rather than a psychological issue. In other words, the patients have turned to heavy gaming because they felt they didn't fit in elsewhere, or that they fit in better "in the game" than elsewhere in "the real world." This has been discussed before, with arguments ranging from gaming being a good way to socialize, the clinical definition of gaming addiction, and claims than males are wired for video-game addiction."

+ - New catalyst in electrolysis to store solar energy

Submitted by
phorm writes: "Reuters is carrying an article about a recent MIT development which may pave the way for solar-energy to be collected for use in low-input periods. According to Reuters, the discovery of the a new catalyst for separating hydrogen+oxygen from water requires only 10% of the electricity of current methods. This would allow storage-cells to function as a form of battery for other forms of energy-collection, such as solar panels. The new method is also much safer (and likely environmentally friendly) than current methods, which require the use of a dangerously caustic environment, and specialized storage containers."
The Internet

+ - Bell wants to dump third-party ISP's entirely

Submitted by
phorm writes: "Not only is Bell interfering with third-party traffic, but — according to CBC — they want third-party ISP and phone carriers off their network entirely.

This Story details how Bell is lobbying to lease-conditions on their networks removed, stating that enough competition exists that they should not longer be required to lease infrastructure to third-parties. Perhaps throttling is just the beginning?"

+ - CBC to broadcast program finale on BitTorrent->

Submitted by
phorm writes: "The CBC television program "Canada's Next Great Prime Minister," which recently aired its final episode and is already notable for having conducted auditions on YouTube and having its own Facebook group, is now planning to release a high-resolution, DRM-free version of the finale via BitTorrent.

As other media companies continue to slam BitTorrent as being only a "tool for piracy", will the continued increase of its use in legitimate distribution overshadow these failing arguments?"

Link to Original Source
GNU is Not Unix

+ - You can not reverse-engineer our GPL-violations... 6

Submitted by
phorm writes: "If appears that Monsoon Technology, the makers of the Hava media-transmission systems, don't quite understand the GPL. As some users pointed out in their forums, their systems appear to be based on Linux and various GPL'ed software, with the output of "strings" and other tests showing signs of running busybox and others. A monsoon spokesperson on the forum has indicated that they are aware it uses GPL'ed software, and are "working" on making source available, but at the same time are dropping various threats against supposed reverse-engineering of the software by those that determined the GPL violations.

A few snippets from the Monsoon rep include: I have a little secret to let you in on — HAVA runs Linux! Yes, much of the source is GPL and we should publish those sections which we have modified per the terms of GPL. A project is underway to pull this together. A couple of observations — some of you appear to be violating the terms of the End User License Agreement

You recognize and agree that the HAVA Software including its structure, source code and the design and structure of modules or programs, constitute valuable trade secrets owned by Snappymultimedia or its licensors. You will not copy or use the HAVA Software except as expressly permitted by this EULA and, specifically, you will not ...

(b) yourself or through any third party modify, reverse engineer, disassemble or decompile the HAVA Software in whole or part, except to the extent expressly permitted by applicable law, and then only after you have notified Snappymultimedia in writing of your intended activities; Seems to me that some of you have just come out blatantly admitting you are reverse engineering the firmware — or trying to. How should we handle this? As responses have indicated, the methods used to determine the violation do not seem to constitute reverse-engineering. Moreover, the initial friendliness of the rep is severely marred by the apparent hostility of the later message, as forum members have indicated. The overall message seems to be "we have not lived up to our obligations under the license of the software which we are using, but we'll get to it... sometime. Meanwhile, do not attempt to poke around our code yourself or things will get ugly."

The owners of BusyBox have been notified of this violation, however the response is still troubling. Is this the response we should come to expect as more and more commercial software uses and misuses GPL'ed components?"


+ - HP removes all support for windows 98, ME->

Submitted by
phorm writes: "At my work location, I suppose a number of older (pentium-III generation, sometimes pentium-II) machines which run using windows 98. Recently, after re-imaging a machine, I attempted to download a printer driver from HP's website only to be greeted with a message stating that HP has removed all drivers for windows 98, 98SE, and ME, and will no longer offer CD's with drivers for hardware under those platforms. This includes the removal of drivers for any printers, etc that previously existed on the HP site.

Here's the blurb [and printable version] from HP's website, they blame it on changes from Microsoft but frankly I can't see how this affects older, previously-available drivers:

As of July 2007, HP will no longer be able to offer software driver downloads or replacement CD ordering for Windows 98, 98 Second Edition (SE), or Windows Millennium (Me) for your HP printer, all-in-one, camera, or scanner. Microsoft has stopped providing and supporting certain files related specifically to Windows 98 SE, and this change affects all technology companies. HP, along with other technology companies, is no longer able to use selected components in support of Windows 98SE, which has an impact on our software strategy for Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, and Windows Me.

Although the software drivers for Windows 98, 98 Second Edition, and Windows Me will no longer be supported by HP, your HP product will still work with these operating systems with the software provided to you on the CD that shipped with the product. Also, if you have previously received a software CD that lists any of these operating systems on the CD label, or downloaded a driver for one of these operating systems, please maintain these files. These files will no longer be available in the HP online support Web site or in any other HP support options (such as e-mail, chat or phone support) after the date mentioned above.

This information supersedes any statements in the printed documentation, the online Help and also other documents available in the HP support website.

Link to Original Source

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley