The achievements system was launched on April fools day of 2009 in order to allow for certain joke achievements, but the system itself is a real one. - FAQ
This series of four comments is extraordinarily detailed and informative. I would blow all my mod points in here if I had any; people should be reading this rundown from someone with obvious hands-on experience and familiarity with the new books instead of many of the one-off snide remarks, if they want to understand what's changed.
youthoftoday writes "The OLPC project to bring the internet to third world has worked well — too well, it seems. Yahoo reports that Nigerian Children are already using the OLPC to browse for porn." This is why as kids we couldn't look at National Geographic issues without being supervised. A rep from OLPC said, understandably, that the laptops would now be fitted with filters.
Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes "A recurring theme in editorials about Net Neutrality -- broadly defined as the principle that ISPs may not block or degrade access to sites based on their content or ownership (with exceptions for clearly delineated services like parental controls) -- is that it is a "solution in search of a problem", that ISPs in the free world have never actually blocked legal content on purpose. True, the movement is mostly motivated by statements by some ISPs about what they might do in the future, such as slow down customers' access to sites if the sites haven't paid a fast-lane "toll". But there was also an oft-forgotten episode in 2000 when it was revealed that two backbone providers, AboveNet and TeleGlobe, had been blocking users' access to certain Web sites for over a year -- not due to a configuration error, but by the choice of management within those companies. Maybe I'm biased, since one of the Web sites being blocked was mine. But I think this incident is more relevant than ever now -- not just because it shows that prolonged violations of Net Neutrality can happen, but because some of the people who organized or supported AboveNet's Web filtering, are people in fairly influential positions today, including the head of the Internet Systems Consortium, the head of the IRTF's Anti-Spam Research Group, and the operator of Spamhaus. Which begs the question: If they really believe that backbone companies have the right to silently block Web sites, are some of them headed for a rift with Net Neutrality supporters?" Read on for the rest of his story.
jpmahala asks: "We had been using Groove internally at our company for quite some time (before the Microsoft buyout), and were interested in adding more users to the program. However, after clicking on the link to the store on Groove's website, I find a message from Microsoft that the product is no longer being offered. Following the link provided by Microsoft, I find that it is bundled into the Office2007 product now and it does not seem to be offered as a standalone product. I'm sad to see that sort of thing happen, and I am unwilling to upgrade everyone to Office2007 just for the sake of Groove. Is there any viable alternative out there?"
narramissic writes "According to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a new policy is currently under discussion by the community of users who regularly write and maintain Wikipedia that would require contributors to the site who claim certain credentials to prove they really have them. The new policy comes after one of Wikipedia's most prolific and respected editors, who went by the pseudonym 'Essjay,' was found not to be the 'tenured professor of theology' he claimed to be but a run-of-the-mill 24 year-old from Kentucky. Said Wales, 'To discover that someone had been deceiving the community for a long time really was a bit of a blow to our trust. Wikipedia is built on the idea of trusting other people and people being honest and we find that in the most part everyone is, so it was a real disappointment.'"
Jeremy writes to tell us that using some simple deduction, a security consultant discovered how to clone a passport as it's being mailed to its recipient, without ever opening the package. "But the key in this first generation of biometric passport is relatively easy to identify/crack. It is not random, but consists of passport number, the passport holder's date of birth and the passport expiry date. The Mail found it relatively easy to identify the holder's date of birth, while the expiry date is 10 years from the issue date, which for a newly-delivered passport would clearly fall within a few days. The passport number consists of a number of predictable elements, including an identifier for the issuing office, so effectively a significant part of the key can be reconstructed from the envelope and its address label."
Andrija Ifkovic writes "James Gosling, the creator of Java language and a VP of Sun has been appointed to the Order of Canada. 'The Order of Canada recognizes outstanding lifetime achievement and contributions to society and the country by Canadians from all walks of life.' This is the highest honor Canada can bestow upon its citizens."
Ravi writes "Perl (Practical Extraction and Report Language) — the language which was created by Larry Wall is arguably one of the greatest programming languages. But it has a reputation for taking an excessive cryptic nature which gives it an image especially among Perl novices as a language which is complex and hard to master. Minimal Perl: for Unix and Linux people, authored by Tim Maher and published by Manning Publications addresses the obstacles presented by Perl's complexity. This book which is divided into two parts comprising of a total of 12 chapters takes a unique methodology to explain the Perl syntax and its use. The author emphasizes on Perl's grep, awk and sed like features and relys on concepts such as inputs, filters and arguments to allow Unix users to directly apply their existing knowledge to the task of learning Perl." Read on for the rest of Ravi's review.
PetManimal writes "Researchers say that the Storm Trojan/Peacomm worm has been tweaked to spread via IM programs and attack rival malware. Symantec sounded the alarm, and says that the exploit launches in AOL, Google Talk, and Yahoo Messenger windows that are already open, making it appear to be a legitimate message from a known user. The worm has modified the code from last year's Nuwar worm, and when activated, enables a DDoS attack against any site, including antispam services and servers supporting rival malware: 'Systems hijacked by Peacomm have also conducted DDoS attacks against at least five domains used by the creators of the noted Warezov (or Stration) worm. After a busy September and October, Warezov was credited by some analysts as the genesis of 2006's massive fourth-quarter spike in spam volume.'"
Kotaku has the word that Square/Enix is moving into the 'serious' games market. Serious Games, as they're known, attempt to do more than just entertain. Square has never previously created games for education, and so it's quite notable that company strategist Ichiro Otobe is now slated to give the keynote at this year's GDC Serious Games Summit. From the release: "The serious games market represents a new outlet for our skills as a game developer, and it means that we will be serving totally different customers. As such, there are many different kinds of hurdles that must be cleared in order for it to offer meaningful opportunities. I plan to speak about Square Enix's approach to these challenges, and hopefully provide both business and design inspiration for everyone interested in the uses of games beyond entertainment."
BlueVoodoo writes "Text-editing operations are normally done interactively, inside a text editor application. Some tasks, however, can be accomplished quickly and easily, right from the UNIX command line. What's more, these one-liners can be used in scripts to automate various editing procedures."
IGN confirms a delicious rumour that's been circulating since this past weekend. Yes, Virginia, there is a next-gen Ghostbusters game currently in the works. Footage from the work in progress, made up by developer Zootfly, has been circulating with much debate over its authenticity. Unfortunately, right now it doesn't look like we'll be seeing this title any time soon. From the article: "We are very glad to see the overwhelming response to the Ghostbusters prototype movies. What you've seen is indeed in-game footage of early prototypes on the Xbox 360, running on ZootFly's proprietary engine. Due to licensing issues, further development of the Ghostbusters game hit a bump on the road. But everybody here at ZootFly is working actively on resolving the challenges with the owners of the Ghostbusters IP."
Fyz writes "Being an avid reader of Slashdot and other internet-based media while living in Europe, it is easy to get the impression that the US is not a very nice place. Everyday, a steady stream of insane lawsuits, insane convictions, insane laws, insane rules and insane pundits dominate the news I get from the media. I'm planning a longer stay in the US to do some postgraduate studies in physics, in part because my instincts tell me that it can't possibly be as bad as the impression the news gives me. Basically, I'm hoping to get a reality check. So my questions are these: Isn't the feeling "on the ground" very much different than portrayed in discussion on this site? And are the many stories of peoples rights being trampled on something you can relate to, or are they rare extremes?"