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Games

Sci-Fi Author Timothy Zahn Is Creating a Video Game 116

An anonymous reader writes "Timothy Zahn, one of the most influential Star Wars Expanded Universe authors (creator of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade), and writer of 40 novels and 90+ short stories, will be trying his hand as the Creative Director for a new video game, Timothy Zahn's Parallax. From the Kickstarter page: 'The game concept is heavily inspired by the original Master of Orion but, because Timothy Zahn is the co-creator, a major focus is going to be on making sure that each alien race is as fully-realized as possible, and that the interactions with the other aliens are realistic: talking to one alien race will be different than talking to another, and the choices you make in the game will have side effects and the computer players will remember them — and treat you differently because of them.' Other highlights: 'The game will include at least 5 of his non-Star Wars alien races (Modhri, Kalixiri, Zhirrzh, Qanska and Pom); Backers will be active participants in the game creation process; No Digital Rights Management foolishness.' The Kickstarter starts at 6pm MST today."
Books

Meet the Guy Who Fact-Checks Stephen King On Stephen King 121

cartechboy writes "Stephen King has sold more than 300 million books of horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. The guy has written so many works, and words, that he actually needs a "continuity adviser" to fact check him when he picks old stories up as a new book. Enter Rocky Wood — who is the world-wide leading expert on Stephen King's work. So much so, that King hired Wood (who has authored a 6000+ page encyclopedia on CD-ROM on every single aspect of King's work — including 26,000 different King characters) to fact check himself when he writes."
Media

Why Steve Albini Still Prefers Analog Tape 440

CNET's Steve Guttenberg ("The Audiophiliac") profiles prolific audio engineer and general music industry do-it-all Steve Albini; Albini (who's worked on literally thousands of albums with musicians across a wide range of genres) has interesting things to say about compression, the rise of home-recording ("The majority of recordings will be crappy, low-quality recordings, but there will always be work for engineers who can do a good job, because there will always be people who appreciate good sound."), and why he still prefers to record to analog tape. (Note: Albini is justly famous not just for his production work, but in particular for his essay "The Problem with Music.")
Idle

Egyptian Authorities Detain French "Spy" Bird Found With Tracker 110

An anonymous reader writes "The Washington Post reports, 'In a case that ruffled feathers in Egypt, authorities have detained a migratory bird that a citizen suspected of being a spy. A man in Egypt's Qena governorate, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Cairo, found the suspicious bird among four others near his home and brought them to a police station Friday, said Mohammed Kamal, the head of the security in the region. With turmoil gripping Egypt following the July 3 popularly backed military coup that overthrew the country's president, authorities and citizens remain highly suspicious of anything foreign. Conspiracy theories easily find their ways into cafe discussion — as well as some media in the country. Earlier this year, a security guard filed a police report after capturing a pigeon he said carried microfilm. A previous rumor in 2010 blamed a series of shark attacks along Egypt's Mediterranean coast on an Israeli plot. It wasn't. In the bird's case, even military officials ultimately had to deny the bird carried any spying devices. They spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.'"
Earth

US Uncorks $16M For 17 Projects To Capture Wave Energy 132

coondoggie writes "The US Energy Department this week said it would spend $16 million for seventeen projects to help research and develop energy generating systems from waves, tides and currents. The energy agency says the US could generate up to 1,400 terawatt hours of potential power per year. One terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, according to the agency."
Crime

Snowden Spoofed Top Officials' Identity To Mine NSA Secrets 743

schnell writes "As government investigators continue to try to figure out just how much data whistleblower Edward Snowden had access to, MSNBC is reporting that Snowden used his sysadmin privileges to assume the user profiles of top NSA officials in order to gain access to the most sensitive files. His sysadmin privileges also enabled him to do something other NSA users can't — download classified files from NSAnet onto a thumb drive. 'Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was,' said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case. 'This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.'"
Hardware Hacking

New Keyboard Accessory Shocks Users When They Try To Go On Facebook 125

cartechboy writes "Two Ph.D. students from MIT have created a keyboard accessory, the Pavlov Poke, that shocks you every time you go onto Facebook. The project comes as a result of the students finding the waste over 50 hours a week combined on the social network (instead of working on their dissertations) So the pair created an Arduino-based keyboard hand-rest that shocks computer users who spend too much time checking the social network. The hack is 'intended to generate discussion' — not actually turn into a business." Inventor Robert Morris describes it as "something of a joke," but I'm sure there's a market out there.
Microsoft

Ballmer To Retire 633

Today Microsoft announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will be retiring within the next 12 months. He said, "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. ... My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction." Ballmer, 57, has been Microsoft's CEO since taking over the role from Bill Gates in January, 2000. The company's board of directors has formed a committee to find a replacement for Ballmer, and he will continue his duties until a new CEO is found. Questions about Ballmer's fitness to remain CEO have been circulating for the past several years, particularly after the company struggled to get a foothold in the mobile market. It will be interesting to see how this affects Microsoft's stock price. Upon retirement, Ballmer will be able to cash out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Microsoft stock.
Science

Researchers Discover Way To Spot Crappy Coffee 184

sciencehabit writes "People who enjoy the most expensive coffee in the world can soon sip without worry: Researchers have come up with a way to tell if their cuppa joe is real or faux. The luxury drink in question—Kopi Luwak—is produced from coffee beans pooped out by the palm civet, a time-consuming process that helps contribute to the beverage's price tag of between $330 to $500 per kilogram. In a new study, researchers chemically analyzed four different blends of coffee—authentic Kopi Luwak, regular coffee, a 50/50 mix of the two, and a brew of coffee beans that producers had chemically treated in an attempt to simulate mammalian digestion. Of the hundreds of organic substances naturally present in coffee, a handful enabled the team to distinguish Kopi Luwak from the other brews. The technique may even be sensitive enough to distinguish pure Kopi Luwak from versions adulterated with varying percentages of other coffees—which offers some degree of reassurance when your morning mud costs about $15 a cup."

Comment This news is already out of date: (Score 5, Informative) 209

"In an apparent about-face, San Francisco Fire Department officials said Monday they will revisit restrictions on firefighters' use of helmet-mounted cameras after concluding that footage from the Asiana Airlines crash showed the value of the devices."

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/SFFD-backtracks-may-allow-helmet-cameras-4744090.php

Privacy

Protests Mount In New Zealand Against New Surveillance Laws 138

An anonymous reader writes "New revelations about Ministerial orders requiring backdoors into online services in New Zealand are fueling nationwide protests against new surveillance powers to be granted to the Government Communications Services Bureau. Speaking at one large protest meeting, Kim Dotcom described the 'Five Eyes' X-Keyscore surveillance system as 'Google for spies'. He told protesters he first noticed he was being spied on when his internet speed slowed by '20 to 30 milliseconds'. 'As a gamer, I noticed,' he said."
Programming

How One Programmer Is Coding Faster By Voice Than Keyboard 214

mikejuk writes "Is it possible that we have been wasting our time typing programs. Could voice recognition, with a little help from an invented spoken language, be the solution we didn't know we needed? About two years ago Tavis Rudd, developed a bad case of RSI caused by typing lots of code using Emacs. It was so severe that he couldn't code. As he puts it: 'Desperate, I tried voice recognition'. The Dragon Naturally Speaking system used by Rudd supported standard language quite well, but it wasn't adapted to program editing commands. The solution was to use a Python speech extension, DragonFly, to program custom commands. OK, so far so good, but ... the commands weren't quite what you might have expected. Instead of English words for commands he used short vocalizations — you have to hear it to believe it. Now programming sounds like a conversation with R2D2. The advantage is that it is faster and the recognition is easier — it also sounds very cool and very techie. it is claimed that the system is faster than typing. So much so that it is still in use after the RSI cleared up."
Privacy

Should Cops Wear Google Glass? 223

Nerval's Lobster writes "Over at The Kernel, staff writer Greg Stevens wonders whether police departments around the world should outfit their officers with Google Glass. There's some logic behind the idea. A cop with wearable electronics constantly streaming audio and video back to a supervisor (or even a Website) would be less likely, at least in theory, to take liberties with civilians' civil liberties. But not everybody thinks it's such a good idea. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, wrote in a recent blog posting that society needs to make choices 'about the extent to which we want to allow the government to store up that data so that it has the power to hit 'rewind' on everybody's lives.' In the view of that organization, 'that's just too much power.' That being said, law enforcement wearing electronics that streams constant video and audio data would still be subject to the law. 'If the officer is recording a communication he has in public with someone, there's probably no wiretap problem since there's at least the consent of one party and no expectation of privacy,' Hanni M. Fakhoury, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in an email to Slashdot. 'But if he's recording peripheral communications between two separate individuals, than there's potential wiretap liability depending on the circumstances.' What do you think? Are cops wearing Google Glass (or similar wearable electronic) a good idea?"
Sci-Fi

Should the Next 'Doctor Who' Be a Woman? 772

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jennifer Finney Boylan writes in the NYT that for those who did not get beaten up in high school, 'Doctor Who' is a beloved British sci-fi series about a character called the Doctor who is able to regenerate into a new body whenever a mortal would die or whenever an actor grows tired of the gig. The Doctor has been played by 11 different men since the show went on the air in 1963 and with Matt Smith, stepping down this Christmas, many fans had hoped that this time, a dozen cycles in, the Doctorship would finally go to a woman. 'Maybe it was the election of Barack Obama that made it seem, fleetingly, as if there were no more glass ceilings, for offices from president to pontiff,' writes Boylan. 'Whether the 45th president is a woman (Hillary Rodham Clinton?) or a Latino (Marco Rubio?), it still feels, on a good day, as if we've entered a time when there are fewer limits on what men and women can aspire to.' But unlike presidents or popes, we may not get that many more chances at a glass-shattering Doctor. According to long-held Doctor Who mythology, the character's 13th regeneration could be his last. 'As the producers think about whom they want to take on the role next, they should keep in mind the way people's hopes are lifted when they see someone breaking the glass ceiling, even when it's for something as seemingly trivial as a hero on a science-fiction program. Equal opportunity matters — in Doctor Who's universe as well as our own.'"
The Almighty Buck

Study Finds 3D Printers Pay For Themselves In Under a Year 322

Lucas123 writes "Researchers using a RepRap open source 3D printer found that the average household could save as much as $2,000 annually and recoup the cost of the printer in under a year by printing out common household items. The Michigan Technical University (MTU) research group printed just 20 items and used 'conservative' numbers to find that the average homeowner could print common products, such as shower rings or smartphone cases, for far less money than purchasing them online at discount Websites, such as Google Shopper. 'It cost us about $18 to print all [20] items... the lowest retail cost we could find for the same items online was $312 and the highest was $1,943,' said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU. 'The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap [3D printers] is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already.'"

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