July is always one of the hottest months in the U.S., but this year the heat got an early start. Sustained hot weather has slammed huge parts of the country, and led to some serious consequences. All those AC units employed to bring some relief to homes have contributed to the extended post-storm power outage in the eastern part of the country; five days in, the count is still over a million customers in the dark. (I'm writing from Austin; this year Texas's famously warm weather is a little less impressive by comparison to the midwest, the Carolinas, and many other places; temperatures are expected to remain under 100 until Saturday.) If you're in one of the severely affected areas, how has it affected you? More importantly, what strategies have you used to beat the heat in the absence of (or simply unreliable) electricity? Details help. In particular, how are you keeping the human and animal members of your household safe from overheating? Read on below for an extended set of questions on dealing with the ongoing heat wave of 2012's early summer, and respond to any of them that make sense in your situation. Note, answers are of course encouraged from people who aren't in the worst-hit areas, too! Though you're free to respond however you'd like, it would be useful if you start with your location right at the top of (or in the title of) your comment, so others can scan them easily.
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CWmike writes "Recent break-ins at high-profile targets like the International Monetary Fund demonstrate just how proficient hackers have become at so-called spear phishing, researchers said on Tuesday. 'Today's spear phishing is not only more prevalent but also much more technically proficient,' said Dave Jevans, chairman of the Anti-Phishing Working Group. 'They're not going for a password, anymore; they're getting people to install crimeware on their computers.' The trend highlights the need for defenses against such targeted threats, requiring companies to look beyond security strategies focused purely on dealing with traditional network threats, analysts said. Increasingly, companies also need to focus on approaches such as continuous monitoring of networks, databases, applications and users, outbound traffic filtering and whitelisting."
quaith writes "Dario Floreano and Laurent Keller report in PLoS ONE how their robots were able to rapidly evolve complex behaviors such as collision-free movement, homing, predator versus prey strategies, cooperation, and even altruism. A hundred generations of selection controlled by a simple neural network were sufficient to allow robots to evolve these behaviors. Their robots initially exhibited completely uncoordinated behavior, but as they evolved, the robots were able to orientate, escape predators, and even cooperate. The authors point out that this confirms a proposal by Alan Turing who suggested in the 1950s that building machines capable of adaptation and learning would be too difficult for a human designer and could instead be done using an evolutionary process. The robots aren't yet ready to compete in Robot Wars, but they're still pretty impressive."
brothke writes "The fact that President Barack Obama has over 7 million Facebook fans, and First Lady Michelle Obama over 650,000 fans, are confirmation that social media has come of age. That is a far cry from former President Bush's comment in 2006 that he used the Google. While it is relatively easy for the President to get millions of followers, the challenge for businesses of all sizes is how to use social media to get fans and followers, and use them to drive business." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
The success of the Halo franchise is unquestionable. Bungie's trilogy of first-person shooters established a standard against which most similar games have been judged for the past eight years. Thus, when Ensemble Studios picked up the task of bringing the Halo universe to real-time strategy, they faced two separate mountains to climb: maintaining the high quality demanded by fans of the series and developing for a genre that traditionally translates poorly to console play. Fortunately, they had a head start on the latter, bringing in a wealth of experience from the Age of Empires series. Creating an intuitive and dependable control scheme was a top priority, and their success in doing so makes Halo Wars a worthy addition to the series. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
Last week we asked you to submit questions for several Blizzard employees on a wide range of issues. Since we undertook the pilgrimage to Blizzcon in person this year, we decided to use the question ideas as a guide rather than an absolute, so that it could be a little more conversational in tone. Below we have included the responses from Chris Sigaty, lead producer on StarCraft II; Jeffrey Kaplan (aka Tigole), game director for World of Warcraft; Leonard Boyarsky, lead world designer on Diablo III; and Paul Sams, Blizzard's COO. One interesting point: Paul Sams indicated in his interview that, with enough interest, Blizzard would be willing to entertain the idea of open sourcing some of their older games. He suggested that if you are interested in this to contact them directly (please be at least semi-coherent and polite). Update 19:00 by SM: Bob Colayco from Blizzard just contacted us to mention that if users wish to leave feedback about open sourcing games, support for Linux, or anything else you would like to express to them, you should do so in the comments section of this story. They plan on perusing the comments below for user feedback and interest, so don't be shy.
Late in September we gave you the chance to put your questions to eminent game designer Sid Meier, the man behind the Civilization series. Creator of a series that has squandered the spare time of many a reader of this site, he took time out of the Civ IV release window to hand us back some thoughtful responses to your queries. Read on for the results of "Ask Sid Meier".
Jim Holmes writes "Mary and Tom Poppendieck's Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit is a great read for anyone interested in agile software development. That includes developers, leads, and managers interested in speeding up development cycles, improving quality, and getting their customers the best value. This book's been out since May, 2003, but it's well worth picking up. The concepts within are absolutely applicable now, and will continue to be for quite a few years." Read on for the rest of Holmes' review.
Simon P. Chappell writes "Life is busy enough without writing your own infrastructure code. With all of the high-quality frameworks available today, it's no longer necessary to even think about writing low-level code (except as a technical exercise, or to express your inner geek :-) Our problem today, is to review and select the best available framework for our needs. This is a non-trivial task, but help is at hand with Java Frameworks and Components by Michael Nash." Read on for the rest of Chappell's review.
Simon P. Chappell writes "Now, I enjoy a good technical book more than the next geek, but it's been quite a while since one left me quite so excited with the possibilities that it presented. Code Generation in Action is beyond interesting, it is a masterful tome on its subject matter, written by one who is obviously an experienced practicioner in his craft." If "code generation" isn't a familiar term to you, this enthusiastic overview on devx.com is a concise introduction to what code generation is about, though it makes no pretense of ambivalence about its importance as a programming tool. Read on for the rest of Chappell's review.
kaisyain writes "When I was a kid we moved into an old Victorian house. From the street the house looked impressive and fascinating. When you got up close, however, you noticed the paint was peeling, the widow sashes were rotted away, doors couldn't open or close because they didn't hang true, and at some point someone had cheaply redone the kitchen in a style that was very much not Victorian. Pete McBreen's Software Craftsmanship reminds me of that house." Read on to see if you agree with kaisyain's withering review.
Barry mentions his "sender pays" spamfighting plan more than once in his answers to your questions, and discuessed it at length in an InternetWeek.com article published on Feb. 20. Is Barry's plan workable? Do you have a better idea? Or should we all just get used to spam as part of the online experience, and learn to live with it and block it as best we can?
Doug Miller (no relation) is an amazingly affable and unflappable man. This interview came about because I asked Doug face-to-face if he'd do it when we met after a panel discussion he was part of in Washington DC a few weeks ago. He said "sure" without even a second's hesitation, let alone checking with PR people. His answers to the 10 selected questions we sent him are 100% straight-up. You may not like everything he says (devout Free Software people probably won't like any of it), but Doug Miller deserves your respect (and courtesy) for telling it like it is -- at least from Microsoft's point of view -- without a hint of weaseling.
Quick - how many brand names or logos are visible on the outside of your clothing? Your computer equipment? Have you ever noticed a Red Hat bumper sticker? Warren A. Layton sent us an interesting review of No Logo which will have you examining your surroundings for just such signs. Depending on your bent, you may also be reminded of the character Francisco d'Anconia in Atlas Shrugged when he declares "The coats-of-arms of our day are to be found on billboards and in the ads of popular magazines."
In his responses to the Slashdot interview, Miguel shares the deadly truth about GNOME, the shocking story of the future of Bonobo and CORBA, and the titillating tale of adventure and intrigue that lies deep within the bowels of popular Free Software development projects. Okay, so it's not all that shocking, but Miguel has brought us some really great news and answers from his neck of the open source woods.
You may remember a few weeks ago when we posed the question What is the greatest hacks. Well Derek Glidden has compiled the most popular selections from that discussion, and he presents below the winners. I was pretty surprised by some of the choices, but I think its a great list, with hacks spanning all sorts of areas of human creativity. Enjoy.
Last week, Microsoft and antritrust. This week, thoughts on KDE's future from some of the people who work directly on it, specifically Kurt Granroth and Richard Moore. Instead of posting their e-mail addresses here and swamping them with messages, please see http://developer.kde.org, which will tell you not only how you can contact these gentlemen, but much more about KDE development.