GUI

Could 2018 Be The Year of the Linux Desktop? (gnome.org) 383

Suren Enfiajyan writes: Red Hat worker and GNOME blogger Christian F.K. Schaller wrote why GNU/Linux failed to become a mainstream desktop OS... "My thesis is that there really isn't one reason, but rather a range of issues that all have contributed to holding the Linux Desktop back from reaching a bigger market. Also to put this into context, success here in my mind would be having something like 10% market share of desktop systems. That to me means we reached critical mass."

He named the following reasons:

- A fragmented market
- Lack of special applications
- Lack of big name applications
- Lack of API and ABI stability
- Apple's resurgence
- Microsoft's aggressive response
- Windows piracy
- Red Hat mostly stayed away
- Canonical's business model not working out
- Lack of original device manufacturer support

Then he ended with some optimism:

"So anyone who has read my blog posts probably knows I am an optimist by nature. This isn't just some kind of genetic disposition towards optimism, but also a philosophical belief that optimism breeds opportunity while pessimism breeds failure. So just because we haven't gotten the Linux Desktop to 10% marketshare so far doesn't mean it will not happen going forward. It just means we haven't achieved it so far.

"One of the key identifiers of open source is that it is incredibly hard to kill, because unlike proprietary software, just because a company goes out of business or decides to shut down a part of its business, the software doesn't go away or stop getting developed. As long as there is a strong community interested in pushing it forward it remains and evolves, and thus when opportunity comes knocking again it is ready to try again."

The essay concludes desktop Linux has evolved and is ready to try again, since from a technical perspective it's better than ever. "The level of polish is higher than ever before, the level of hardware support is better than ever before and the range of software available is better than ever before...

"There is also the chance that it will come in a shape we don't appreciate today. For instance maybe ChromeOS evolves into a more full fledged operating system as it grows in popularity and thus ends up being the Linux on the Desktop end game? Or maybe Valve decides to relaunch their SteamOS effort and it provides the foundation for a major general desktop growth? Or maybe market opportunities arise that will cause us at Red Hat to decide to go after the desktop market in a wider sense than we do today? Or maybe Endless succeeds with their vision for a Linux desktop operating system...."
Bitcoin

Steam Ends Support For Bitcoin (polygon.com) 151

Valve is ending support for Steam purchases made with bitcoin, the company said today, citing "high fees and volatility" in the value of the cryptocurrency. In a statement, it said: "In the past few months we've seen an increase in the volatility in the value of Bitcoin and a significant increase in the fees to process transactions on the Bitcoin network," Valve said in a post on Steam. "For example, transaction fees that are charged to the customer by the Bitcoin network have skyrocketed this year, topping out at close to $20 a transaction last week (compared to roughly $0.20 when we initially enabled Bitcoin). Unfortunately, Valve has no control over the amount of the fee. These fees result in unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin. The high transaction fees cause even greater problems when the value of Bitcoin itself drops dramatically."
Transportation

BMW Recalling One Million Vehicles in North America (reuters.com) 70

Several readers share a report: BMW said Friday it is recalling about 1 million vehicles in North America for two separate issues involving fire risks and said it may expand the recalls to other countries. One recall covers 670,000 2006-2011 U.S. 3-series vehicles to address a wiring issue for heating and air conditioning system may overheat and could increase the risk of a fire. The second recall covers 740,000 U.S. 2007-2011 vehicles with a valve that could rust and lead to a fire in rare cases. The recall includes some 128i vehicles, 3-series, 5-series and X3, X5 and Z4 vehicles.
Slashdot.org

20 Years of Stuff That Matters 726

Today we're marking Slashdot's 20th birthday. 20 years is a long time on the internet. Many websites have come and gone over that time, and many that stuck around haven't had any interest in preserving their older content. Fortunately, as Slashdot approaches its 163,000th story, we've managed to keep track of almost all our old postings - all but the first 2^10, or so. In addition to that, we've held onto user comments, the lifeblood of the site, from 1999 onward. As we celebrate Slashdot's 20th anniversary this month, we thought we'd take a moment to highlight a few of the notable or interesting stories and discussions that have happened here in the past decade and a half. This is part of our 20-year anniversary celebration, and we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups. We'll be continuing to run some special pieces throughout the month, so keep an eye out for those.

Read on for a trip down memory lane.

Update: Slashdot founder CmdrTaco has taken to Medium with some of his own Slashdot nostalgia.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Open Invitation To Valve, Nintendo and Others To Join Xbox One and PC Crossplay (vg247.com) 175

Microsoft has said it's ready to have a "conversation" with any development team that wants to feature crossplay support on consoles and PC. From a report: Mike Ybarra, vice president of Xbox, told VG247 that it's happy to talk to the likes of Valve and Nintendo when it comes to getting multiplayer games working across multiple platforms, not just between Xbox One and Windows. "It's more about gamer choice, more about making an IP on our platform last longer. I don't care about where they play, I just want people to have fun playing games because that's just better for the industry," said Ybarra. "The demands of consumers and developers have changed," he continued. "People are like, 'we want all of our gamers in one multiplayer pool together, playing.' "We totally agree with that. If any developer wants to have that conversation... Valve is right down the street from us, Nintendo is too -- they're like a block from us. We're having these discussions as developers come up, and we're completely open to that."
Games

Ex-Valve Writer Reveals What Might Have Been Half-Life 2: Episode 3's Story (eurogamer.net) 46

New submitter stikves shares a report from Eurogamer: Ex-Valve writer Marc Laidlaw, who worked on Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and its episodic expansions, has published a summary of the series' next chapter on his blog. Titled, "Epistle 3," it details Gordon Freeman's next adventure. Except, likely for copyright issues, the whole story has been genderswapped. So Laidlaw's tale speaks of Gertrude Fremont, Alex instead of Alyx, Elly instead of Eli, and so on. Naturally, Laidlaw's blog is currently down due to traffic, although you can read a backup of the page on Archive.org, or on Pastebin, where the names have been corrected.
AI

Elon Musk + AI + Microsoft = Awesome Dota 2 Player (theverge.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Tonight during Valve's yearly Dota 2 tournament, a surprise segment introduced what could be the best new player in the world -- a bot from Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI. Engineers from the nonprofit say the bot learned enough to beat Dota 2 pros in just two weeks of real-time learning, though in that training period they say it amassed "lifetimes" of experience, likely using a neural network judging by the company's prior efforts. Musk is hailing the achievement as the first time artificial intelligence has been able to beat pros in competitive e-sports... Elon Musk founded OpenAI as a nonprofit venture to prevent AI from destroying the world -- something Musk has been beating the drum about for years.
"Nobody likes being regulated," Musk wrote on Twitter Friday, "but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that's a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too."

Musk also thanked Microsoft on Twitter "for use of their Azure cloud computing platform. This required massive processing power."
Space

Take-Two Acquires Kerbal Space Program 85

Eloking quotes a report from Polygon: Take-Two Interactive has purchased physics-based space simulation Kerbal Space Program, according to announcements from publisher Take-Two and developer Squad. "We have been impressed with Kerbal Space Program since its launch, and we are committed to grow this unique experience while continuing to support its passionate community," said Michael Worosz, senior vice president, head of corporate development and independent publishing at Take-Two, in a release. "We view Kerbal Space Program as a new, long-term franchise that adds a well-respected and beloved IP to Take-Two's portfolio as we continue to explore opportunities across the independent development landscape." Kerbal Space Program officially launched on PC in 2015. The game had been available through Steam's Early Access program since 2013. It has since gone on to sell more than 2 million copies on console and PC. Developer Squad said in a statement that the acquisition won't alter its plan for continued development of Kerbal Space Program. The developer is currently working on the Making History Expansion for the game.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 189

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Operating Systems

Opinion: Even if You Hate the Idea, Windows Users Should Want Windows 10 S To Succeed (arstechnica.com) 259

Last week, Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 S, a new variant of its desktop operating system aimed largely at the education space. While time will tell how this new edition of Windows fares, if early reactions from enthusiasts are anything to go by, Windows 10 S is in for a tough ride ahead. For one, Windows 10 S only permits installation of applications from the Windows Store. If that wasn't a deal-breaker, several popular applications including Google's Chrome are missing from the Store. Amid all of this, reporter and columnist Peter Bright has an op-ed up on ArsTechnica in which he argues that despite the walled-garden offering, people should want Windows 10 S to succeed as it could make Windows better for everyone else. From his article: This [forbidding execution of any program that wasn't downloaded from the Windows Store] positions Microsoft as a gatekeeper -- although its criteria for entry within the store is for the most part not stringent, it does reserve the right to remove software that it deems undesirable -- and means that the vast majority of extant Windows software can't be used. This means that PC mainstays, from Adobe Photoshop to Valve's Steam, can't be used on Windows 10 S. [...] Some of the arguments against this are bizarre. Notably, the complaint that Microsoft has now erected a paywall -- "you have to pay $50 to run Steam!" -- is very peculiar when one considers that, in general, Windows licenses have never been free. [...] The Windows Store makes bad parts of Windows better: I'd argue, however, that Windows users should want Windows 10 S to succeed. Windows 10 S isn't for everybody, and Windows 10 S may not be for you, but if Windows 10 S succeeds, it will make Windows 10 better for everyone. The Store in Windows RT required developers to write their apps from scratch. With negligible numbers of users, developers were uninterested in doing this work. The Store in Windows 10 has Centennial. In principle, Centennial should make it easy to package existing Win32 apps and sell them through the Store, and if developers of Windows apps adopt Centennial en masse then the Store restriction shouldn't be particularly restrictive. Widespread adoption will be good for Windows users of all stripes.
PlayStation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Best Virtual Reality Headsets? 141

Quantus347 writes: Straightforward question: I held off for a year to let the various manufacturers shake out the bugs, but now it's down to either a virtual-reality system or a new generation console. So I ask you, the Slashdot community, what are your personal experiences with any of the various VR systems out there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What little things annoy you the most? What features make a given product the best (or worst) option? "Sprinkle us with wisdom from your mighty brain!" For reference, the HTC Vive costs $799.00, while the Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch motion controllers costs $598 (which is the price after the recent markdown from $799). These prices do not include the necessary hardware required to power each headset. The PlayStation VR ($399.99), Samsung Gear VR ($99.99), and Google Daydream View ($79.00) are also available for less moolah.
Graphics

Valve Releases SteamVR For Linux (gamingonlinux.com) 61

New submitter JustNiz quotes a report from GamingOnLinux: Valve has launched SteamVR for Linux officially in beta form and they are keen to stress that this is a development release. You will need to run the latest Steam Beta Client for it to work at all, so be sure to opt-in if you want to play around with it. VR on Linux will exclusively use Vulkan, so it's going to be a pretty good push for Vulkan if VR becomes more popular. Those who are interested can head over to GitHub for more information.
The Almighty Buck

Valve's Gabe Newell Says Only 30 SteamVR Apps Have Made $250,000+ (roadtovr.com) 151

New submitter rentarno writes: According to Valve President, Gabe Newell, only 30 virtual-reality apps on Steam (of some 1,000) have made more than $250,000. But that isn't stopping the company from throwing the bulk of their weight behind virtual reality; Valve recently confirmed that it's working on 3 full VR games. Valve still believes in a huge future for VR, even while things are slow to start. It'll take work to find and make the content that's great for VR, Newell says. "We got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR. It was kind of a novelty, purely a development milestone. There was absolutely nothing compelling about them. Nobody's going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies. You have to aspire and be optimistic that the unique characteristics of VR will cause you to discover a bunch of stuff that isn't possible on any of the existing platforms." How do you view the VR industry in early 2017? Do you think it shows promise or will eventually fail like 3D TV?
First Person Shooters (Games)

'Counter-Strike' Gets Invaded By An Unblockable Chat-Bot (kotaku.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes: "At least one intruder is taking advantage of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive exploit to flood lobbies (even private ones) with text from chat bots that can't be kicked," writes Engadget. The attack "allegedly comes from one person," according to Kotaku, which reports that "It's a similar exploit to one found a few weeks ago, where typing messages into a lobby allowed users to rank up and down as they chose." The chat bot's text includes various complaints about Counter-Strike which it claims motivated the attack, including cheaters, hackers and "bugs that break the game," and it urges a one-day boycott "to proof [sic] them that we care about the game and want them to fix it."
Hardware

Valve 'Comfortable' If Virtual Reality Headsets Fail (bbc.com) 88

VR headset developer Valve is "comfortable" with the idea that the technology could turn out to be a complete failure. Gabe Newell, head of the game studio, made the statement in an interview with news site Polygon. From a report: Valve is co-developer of the Vive VR headset with phone firm HTC. Mr Newell said, so far, interest in the technology was in line with its expectations and that some VR games had already sold well. In the rare and wide-ranging interview, Mr Newell said the advent of VR had much in common with the development of PCs in the 1980s. In both cases, he said, people bought technology without knowing why and discovered afterwards what they were good for. For the PC, he said, it was spreadsheets and businesses that drove the initial success. With VR, people were only starting to discover compelling uses as they experimented and took risks with the technology.Mr Newell said there were now about 1,300 VR-based applications on its Steam gaming service and about 30 of those had made more than $250,000 in revenue.
Software

Valve Is Shutting Down Steam's Greenlight Community Voting System (theverge.com) 99

Valve's crowdsourced Greenlight submission program, which let the gaming community select which games get chosen for distribution via Steam, is shutting down after nearly five years. It will be replaced with a new system called Steam Direct that will charge developers a fee for each title they plan to distribute. The Verge reports: Steam Greenlight was launched in 2012 as a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, even if they weren't working with a big publisher that had a relationship with Valve. Steam users would vote on Greenlight games, and Valve would accept titles with enough support to suggest that they'd sell well. Kroll says that "over 100" Greenlight titles have made $1 million or more. But Greenlight has also had significant problems. Developers could game the system by offering rewards for votes, and worthy projects could get lost amidst a slew of bad proposals. Since Valve ultimately made the call on including games, the process could also seem arbitrary and opaque. The big question is whether what's replacing it is better. To get a game on Steam Direct, developers will need to "complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then, they'll pay an application fee for each game, "which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline" -- a polite way of saying that it will make people think twice before spending money submitting a low-quality game. Steam Direct is supposed to launch in spring of 2017, but the application fee hasn't been decided yet. Developer feedback has apparently suggested anything from $100 -- the current Greenlight submission fee -- and $5,000.
Businesses

Valve and Game Publishers Face EU Probe For Geo-Blocking; ASUS Faces Probe For Online Price-Fixing (betanews.com) 74

Valve, the company behind games distribution platform Steam, is being investigated by EU antitrust regulators. Agreements in place between Valve and five game publishers that implement geo-blocking in titles could breach European competition rules. From a BetaNews report: Valve, alongside Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax, is under investigation to determine whether the practice of restricting access to games and prices based on location is legal. At the same time the European Commission is launching an investigation into ASUS, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer for price manipulation. The investigation into the four electronics manufacturers centers around the fact that the companies restricted the ability of online retailers to set their own pricing for goods.
Cloud

Tim Sweeney Dislikes Windows 10 Cloud Rumors, Calls OS 'Crush Steam Edition' (arstechnica.com) 183

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The rumor that Microsoft is building a version of Windows 10 that can only install apps from the Windows Store has drawn criticism before it's even official. Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney took to Twitter to attack the operating system. Although its real name is named Windows 10 Cloud, he's dubbing it "Windows 10 Crush Steam Edition." Sweeney is convinced that Microsoft wants to exercise total control over the Windows platform and destroy Valve's Steam. Last year, Sweeney attacked the Universal Windows Platform API. He claimed (incorrectly) that third-party stores such as Steam would be unable to sell and distribute UWP games, leaving them at a disadvantage relative to Microsoft's own store. He followed this statement with the claim that Microsoft would systematically modify Windows so as to make Steam work worse and worse, such that gamers grow tired of it and switch to the Windows Store. In his tweets, Sweeney recognizes that Microsoft wants to compete with Chrome OS. But he fails to understand what the company must do to actually offer that competition. He wrote that "it's great for Microsoft to compete with ChromeOS, but NOT BY LOCKING OUT COMPETING WINDOWS SOFTWARE STORES." This statement represents a failure to understand that "locking out competing Windows software stores" is, for this market, positively desirable. It's fundamental to preventing the hard-to-support free-for-all that a Windows system would otherwise represent. A later tweet does recognize the value of this lockdown, but Sweeney says that Windows 10's "great admin features to limit user software installs" should be used instead. This again suggests a misunderstanding of the target market: systems will be used with little to no supervision and with little to no administrative oversight. To compete against the Chromebook, Windows 10 Cloud needs to be locked down by default, and it must not offer any ready way to disable that lockdown. In his complaints, Sweeney also fails to consider what happens should the Chromebook threat go unaddressed: Chromebooks running Chrome OS will proliferate. These machines will not support third-party stores, they will not support Steam, and they will not support PC games at all. Sweeney may not want Microsoft to build this world, but even if Microsoft doesn't create it, Google already is doing so.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Valve Reveals Steam's 2016 Top Earners -- Including 'No Man's Sky' (pcgamer.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes PC Gamer: In a surprise announcement today to kick off 2017, Valve has revealed the 100 best-selling Steam games of 2016... Although the "Top Sellers" section of Steam gives a constant sense of what's selling now, Valve hasn't previously compiled an annual list of which Steam games earned the most money... Rather than ranked in order from 1-100, the list is separated into tiers, from Platinum to Bronze, based on revenue (as opposed to copies sold)... Doom didn't crack the top 12, but it may have gotten close: it's ranked somewhere between 13th and 24th
That second-place Gold tier included more modern throwbacks to classic games, including Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20-Year Celebration. Meanwhile, No Man's Sky, which got off to a rocky start this summer before its massive November update, still turned up in the top "Platinum" tier for revenue earned in 2016. (And it's now discounted 40%.)

In fact, "As an extension of the Winter Sale, all but six of these games are on sale," reports PC Gamer. The other top-earning Steam games were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Grand Theft Auto V, Civilization VI, and DOTA 2 (which is free to play), as well as Rocket League, XCOM 2, Dark Souls III, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, Total War: Warhammer, and Tom Clancy's The Division.
Games

Steam Is Down (steamstat.us) 183

An anonymous reader writes: The entire Steam domain seems to be down for everyone. The websites and Steam clients won't connect. No word from Steam on Twitter or Reddit about the outage. The status page of Steam as well as third-party monitoring sites have confirmed the outage. A tweet from an unofficial Steam Status page says, "100% of #Steam connection manager servers are still down."

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