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PC Games (Games)

EA Launches Ultima-Based Browser Game 106

On Monday Electronic Arts launched Lord of Ultima, a free-to-play, browser-based strategy game that's based on the Ultima universe. Quoting VG247: "Set in the new world of Caledonia, players start the game as conquerors raising an empire, and then move from developing a village to evolving it into a highly customized capital. Players can be peaceful merchants by trading resources over land or sea and using diplomacy, or become feared conquerors using armies of knights and mages to crush their enemies one by one in maniacal glee."
Earth

Officials Sue Couple Who Removed Their Lawn 819

Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that Orange County officials are locked in a legal battle with a couple accused of violating city ordinances for replacing the grass on their lawn with wood chips and drought-tolerant plants, reducing their water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009. The dispute began two years ago, when Quan and Angelina Ha tore out the grass in their front yard. In drought-plagued Southern California, the couple said, the lush grass had been soaking up tens of thousands of gallons of water — and hundreds of dollars — each year. 'We've got a newborn, so we want to start worrying about her future,' said Quan Ha, an information technology manager for Kelley Blue Book. But city officials told the Has they were violating several city laws that require that 40% of residential yards to be landscaped predominantly with live plants. Last summer, the couple tried to appease the city by building a fence around the yard and planting drought-tolerant greenery — lavender, rosemary, horsetail, and pittosporum, among others. But according to the city, their landscaping still did not comply with city standards. At the end of January, the Has received a letter saying they had been charged with a misdemeanor violation and must appear in court. The couple could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for their grass-free, eco-friendly landscaping scheme. 'It's just funny that we pay our taxes to the city and the city is now prosecuting us with our own money,' says Quan Ha."
Piracy

Sony Joins the Offensive Against Pre-Owned Games 461

BanjoTed writes "In a move to counter sales of pre-owned games, EA recently revealed DLC perks for those who buy new copies of Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Now, PlayStation platform holder Sony has jumped on the bandwagon with similar plans for the PSP's SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3. '[Players] will need to register their game online before they are able to access the multiplayer component of the title. UMD copies will use a redeemable code while the digital version will authenticate automatically in the background. Furthermore ... anyone buying a pre-owned copy of the game will be forced to cough up $20 to obtain a code to play online."
NASA

Dying Man Shares Unseen Challenger Video 266

longacre writes "An amateur video of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion has been made public for the first time. The Florida man who filmed it from his front yard on his new Betamax camcorder turned the tape over to an educational organization a week before he died this past December. The Space Exploration Archive has since published the video into the public domain in time for the 24th anniversary of the catastrophe. Despite being shot from about 70 miles from Cape Canaveral, the shuttle and the explosion can be seen quite clearly. It is unclear why he never shared the footage with NASA or the media. NASA officials say they were not aware of the video, but are interested in examining it now that it has been made available."
Government

Moscow Police Watch Pre-Recorded Scenes On Surveillance Cams 114

An anonymous reader writes "During several months of 2009, Moscow police looked at fake pictures displayed on their monitors instead of what was supposed to be video from the city surveillance cams. The subcontractor providing the cams was paid on the basis of 'the number of working cams,' so he delivered pre-cooked pictures stored on his servers. The camera company CEO has been arrested."
Games

The Struggle For Private Game Servers 125

A story at the BBC takes a look at the use of private game servers for games that tend not to allow them. While most gamers are happy to let companies like Blizzard and NCSoft administer the servers that host their MMORPGs, others want different rules, a cheaper way to play, or the technical challenge of setting up their own. A South African player called Hendrick put up his own WoW server because the game "wasn't available in the country at the time." A 21-year-old Swede created a server called Epilogue, which "had strict codes of conduct and rules, as well as a high degree of customized content (such as new currency, methods of earning experience, the ability to construct buildings and hire non-player characters, plus 'permanent' player death) unavailable in the retail version of the game." The game companies make an effort to quash these servers when they can, though it's frequently more trouble that it's worth. An NCSoft representative referenced the "growing menace" of IP theft, and a Blizzard spokesperson said,"We also have a responsibility to our players to ensure the integrity and reliability of their World of Warcraft gaming experience and that responsibility compels us to protect our rights."
Image

Company Makes Paper Out Of Wombat Poo 71

Creative Paper attracted worldwide interest for its paper made of kangaroo droppings in 2005. Well it's been four years and the best and brightest at Creative Paper haven't been sitting on their laurels. What's their great new idea? They have now launched a kind of paper made from wombat poo. Scat-obsessed Darren Simpson from Creative Paper says the paper is green or gold depending on the time of year the droppings are harvested. The wombat paper will be unveiled at an international paper conference in Burnie, Australia later this month.
Google

New Google Favicon Deja Vu All Over Again? 227

theodp writes "Last June, Google rolled out a new favicon, the small branding icon that graces your URL bar when you visit Google. Which, as it turned out, bore a striking similarity to Garth Brooks' Circle-G logo. Well, Google went back to the drawing board and has come back with a new favicon, which it says was inspired by — not copied from, mind you — its users' submitted ideas. Some are also seeing inspiration elsewhere for the new favicon, which consists of white 'g' on a background of four color swatches. Take the AVG antivirus icon, for instance. Or everybody's favorite memory toy, Simon. Or — in perhaps the unkindest cut of all — the four-color Microsoft Windows logo, shown here with a superimposed white '7'. Anything else come to mind?" What comes to mind for me is just how obsessed many people are with the Google favicon.

New Gadget Blocks 'Spam' Phone Calls 274

Smivs writes "The BBC report on a new gizmo that can block/filter spam phone calls. The system basically intercepts all calls. If it recognizes them as a friend or a member of the user's family — numbers on the so-called star list created by the user — it lets them through as normal. If the caller's number is on a zap list — numbers of telemarketers or other nuisance callers — the device answers it, and all future calls from that number, with an automated message which means the phone does not ring at all. If the system doesn't recognize the caller's number, or the caller withholds their number, it asks them who they are, puts them on hold and then rings the user's phone. The user has the option of taking the call, having the system take a message, or they can reject the call and add the number to the 'zap' list. Users can add callers to their 'star' list by pressing the star button on their phone at any point during a call." So wait, they can't spam me twice? If I press a button? And if they actually show their phone number on my caller ID? What about the auto insurance scammers that hit me 10x/week?
Transportation

Feds Target "Mongols" Biker Club's Intellectual Property 393

couchslug writes in with a Reuters account of a Federal raid on a California-based motorcycle club, the Mongols, on charges "ranging from murder and robbery to extortion, money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing." The interesting twist is that the authorities are asking the courts to seize the IP of the biker club — specifically, their trademarked name "Mongols." "Federal agents and police in seven states arrested more than 60 members of the Mongols motorcycle gang on Tuesday in a sweep that also targeted for the first time an outlaw group's 'intellectual property,' prosecutors said. The arrests cap a three-year undercover investigation in which US agents posed as gang members and their girlfriends to infiltrate the group, even submitting to polygraph tests administered by the bikers ... [T]he name 'Mongols,' which appears on the gang's arm patch insignia, was trademarked by the group. The indictment seeks a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any police officer 'who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back' ..."
Windows

Submission + - Surface:a look at Microsofts new platform (arstechnica.com)

ThirdPrize writes: Here is a story on Microsofts "Surface". It is a touch screen/interactive/computer/table beastie that looks a bit like an old school Space Invaders machine. It goes into hardware as well as software details. Interestingly the front end is written using the same libraries as Xbox 360 games.
Privacy

British Cops Hack Into Government Computers 247

CmdrGravy writes "The British Police have hacked into Government computers as part of the on-going 'cash for peerages' investigation. They've uncovered evidence which has, so far, led to one arrest and charge of perverting the course of justice for a leading Labour party figure. This charge carries a potential life sentence. The British police have the power to hack into computer systems as part of an investigation. On previous occasions they have said they did not believe the government was providing them with the information they had been asking for and had warned that they would seek other methods to gather evidence. The police won't say what tools they have used. From the article: 'The investigators did not have to notify No 10 if they were "hacking" into its system. One legal expert said: "In some cases, a senior officer can give permission. In other cases, you might need the authorization of an independent commissioner, who is usually a retired judge appointed by the Home Office."'"

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