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KDE

Submission + - First Release Candidate of KDE 4.8 Available (kde.org)

jrepin writes: "Just in time for some holiday testing, the KDE SC 4.8 Release Candidate is now available. The final release of KDE 4.8 is about one month away, but now the release candidate is available to ensure it shapes up to be a solid release. Among the features of KDE Software Compilation 4.8 is support for Qt Quick in Plasma Workspaces, quite visible improvements to the Dolphin file-manager, KSecretService is now available as a shared password storage pool, and there's many performance improvements. Lots of bug fixes (measured in hundreds) can also be found in KDE 4.8."
Patents

Submission + - Apple's failure in France and Germany fuels patent (bgr.com)

zacharye writes: Whether or not competing products do in fact infringe on Apple’s patents, Apple may have another reason to attack its rivals so aggressively in France and Germany: the company is losing ground. New data from Kantar Worldpanel released on Thursday shows that while the launch of the iPhone 4S was a huge hit in the United States and the United Kingdom, smartphone users in key markets like France and Germany were seemingly not as impressed with the handset...
Privacy

Submission + - Firefox Plug-in Helps Track Privacy Policies (forbes.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Forbes reports that The Internet Society announced today the availability of the Identity Management Policy Audit System, a suite of tools designed to give Internet users a clearer understanding of the online usage policies of the websites they visit. Born out of a collaboration between The Internet Society, the University of Colorado, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Democracy and Technology, the system consists of a free, open-source Firefox plug-in that checks a library of scraped terms of service and privacy policies from several popular websites. If a site changes the fine print of one of its policies, the plug-in notifies the user when they visit the website next. According to Forbes, 'that functionality would help users spot controversial switcheroos in sites' legalese, such as Facebook's change last year that suddenly gave the site the right to use your photos and other content.'
Games

Submission + - Video Game Sequels That (Almost) Took Forever (rundlc.com)

Buffalo55 writes: For the most part, video game publishers churn out sequels at a rapid pace. The process has become so efficient, that consumers don’t have to wait long (just a year in some cases) to play the new Guitar Hero, Call of Duty and even Halo games. Critics complain of sequelitis, but for the most part, this influx of content keeps the industry profitable and fans happy, barring a slip in quality.

Then we have the slow pokes, the companies that make people wait years for a proper sequel for no conceivable reason. Here now, are the sequels that almost took forever to appear.

Linux

Submission + - DX11 comming to Linux - but not Windows XP (phoronix.com)

gr8_phk writes: As reported over at Phoronix, the Direct X 11 API now has an open source implementation on top of Gallium3d which should ease porting of games to Linux with or without Wine. While still in its infancy, you can see where this is heading. All this while Microsoft hasn't offered DX11 for their own aging WindowsXP. Could it be that Linux may soon support this Microsoft API better than Microsoft itself?

Submission + - Would You Eat Genetically Modified Salmon? (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: The FDA is currently considering approval of the first mass-market, genetically modified animal, a super salmon. The engineered fish grows to full size in half the time, making it cheaper to raise and lessening it's environmental impact. But critics argue that the testing that has been done on the fish so far amounts to junk science, and there are unknown consequences if the fish escapes into the wild. Would you eat a hormone-enhanced fish?
Book Reviews

Submission + - Packt New Blender 3D Book - Ebook Review (adventuresinblender.com)

terrywallwork writes: A while back I received an email from the people at Packt publishing telling me of a new book they had just put out, and since any email the mentions the possibility of being able to read new Blender books instantly gets my attention, I clicked the link and was presented with a web page detailing a book called "Blender 3D 2.49 — Architecture, Buildings and Scenery".

This was confusing as I remember having reviewed a book with almost the same title and identical cover picture. So I went to my reviews and checked and sure enough I found a review with the same book cover and almost the same title. So I deleted the email and just put it down to an automated email snafu. Unfortunately I should not have been so quick with the delete button as it turned out to be an updated version of the previous book they put out.

Product Specifications:

* Name: Blender 3D 2.49 — Architecture, Buildings and Scenery

* Author: Allan Brito

* Price: £18.69 (Sept 21 2010 from Packt)

* Type: EBook PDF Format

* Pages: 376 (336 Roughly Useful)

So a little bit late here are my thoughts on Blender 3D 2.49 — Architecture, Buildings and Scenery:

For those that do not know architectural visualization is the technique of modeling the exterior and interior parts of a building so a potential client can see what it looks like (usually before it is constructed). In the old days before 3D, this would be done using an artists painting/drawing or someone would have constructed a model out of wood or card, now that all this kind of modeling is done on computers, this book covers the processes involved in visualization using Blender 3D 2.49.

This book is written by Allan Brito, who is a very skilled modeler and user of Blender 3D and has written multiple books on using Blender for various tasks. He has a very popular website that covers all aspects of architectural modeling (http://www.blender3darchitect.com). Mr Brito is very skilled at both the topics of Blender and Architectural Visualization.

Knowing all the above how does the updated book do in explaining the process of using Blender 3D to do Architectural Visualization? The short answer is very well given the page count.

The book starts by guiding the user through the basic but most important features of Blender, so as to allow a person that has never used Blender to get their feet. Covering the Blender interface and the basic ways of interacting with objects and meshes in Blender. To further help with this many pictures are used that for the most part are very clear and really help in getting across how to carryout particular tasks.

On a side note about the pictures: Some of you may remember that in the older version of this ebook the pictures were all in color, while in this newer updated version, most of the pictures in the ebook version are in grayscale? This was not intentional and having contacted the people at Packt, they say it's a mistake and are investigating. So they will probably fix that issue soon, then you will be able to re-download the book from Packt. So I am assuming in this review that the correction gets carried out. In any event even with the grayscaled pictures they are still useful and it is still possible to follow along using the pictures, it doesn't get in the way of using the book.

One thing that really stood out in this getting started section was the explanation of the Active Window concept, as I don't often see that described users are normally just left to figure that out, it was good Mr Brito took the time. Chapter 1 through 3 cover most of the basics of using Blender.

At Chapter 4 with the basic Blender tutorial chapters out of the way is when we start to use what we have learned to do Architectural Visualization tasks. Also scattered throughout the book are sections which cover the theories and fundamental concepts of Architectural Visualization. They help in explaining why certain things are done the way they are and how they are different from more traditional ways of doing 3D modeling.

A good amount of text is given over to using Blender to do precision modeling using the 3D grid and various snapping and 3D Cursor techniques. Which is useful for a lot of different Blender tasks not just Architectural Visualizations. Coverage of what layers are used for in Blender and how to use them was also present, a useful section on using layers for backups when doing complicated modeling changes was used in the book to show their usefulness.

Throughout the text different pieces of furniture and building elements are constructed, while introducing the user to different features of Blender at the same time. Various modifiers are explained that are deemed useful for Architectural Visualization, such as the mirror modifier and the array modifier. An informative section of the text goes over the process involved in making rounded corners for building walls using Blenders spin tool. As well as showing you have to construct items yourself, a discussion of when and how to use other peoples models is detailed, and various links to useful sources for models are provided. A nice clear explanation of edge loops and control loops was given helping new users when it comes to using the Subsurf Modifier and constructing object from scratch, even though the book is not really trying to teach you all the modeling fundamentals.

Importing models was covered and here although it gives you just enough information to import a DXF file and modify it for use within Blender, here I think more time should have been taken to describe more of the importing features and the various scripts and techniques used for cleaning and importing the varied import formats that Blender supports. Although hopefully this section of the book should give you enough information to find out the rest of it on your own, it's an important topic and needed more time as lots of things can and do go wrong when importing models from other formats that are not native to Blender.

Once the book has gone over how to create some simple objects it moves on to showing how use materials, textures and UV mapping over the next 3 chapters, giving enough information to do basic materials and texturing work for an Architectural Visualization project, even covering how to use Radiosity in later chapters. Though baking of textures is not covered in any detail. The sections on UV Unwrapping were clear and I think a new Blender user would have had no problems understanding them. UV Unwrapping is often a difficult subject to describe in a book especially describing seams, but the book does it well. There is the odd technical mistake about pinning preventing you from moving UV Unwrapped Nodes but its not a big issue, and it arguable depending on how you read it weather it's wrong at all. Thankfully there are very few problems like that in the book. Another advantage of this updated book is that a lot of the bad grammar and mistakes have been removed and for a book with over 300 pages there are not many typos.

In Chapter 10, Lighting is covered and this is a highlight (no pun) of the book. The descriptions of the different types of lights in Blender and their uses for Architectural Visualization is very detailed, going over both theory and practice on how to use them within Blender. Although its a small thing I thought the description of the Dist: parameter for lighting was one of the best I have read from a Blender book. I found out things even I didn't know about Dist. As a final test of all the things learned in the lighting section a demonstration of how to light a Solarium is used show the uses of various lighting types, which I think would be useful.

The more exotic lighting techniques are covered in chapter 11, those being Radiosity and Ambient Occlusion. Given the Blender 2.4x series doesn't have fully fledged global illumination (yet), the coverage of radiosity is welcome as there will be times where it comes in useful, even if it is being phased out slowly. More useful was the text on Ambient Occlusion and its various uses and options to bring a rendered scene to a new level of realism. The only real criticism I have of this section was that baking was not covered and being able to bake Occlusion is very useful, but other than that a good chapter.

Chapter 12 covers how to use external render Yafaray with Blender to produce globally illuminated scenes. Some of Yafaray's most important options as regards setting up Blender materials to be used in Yafaray are covered, and a good description of the different techniques that Yafaray uses to render a realistic 3D scene are described in some detail. Though obviously in a book this size an in-depth treatment of Yafaray could not be done, but enough information to get you started with Yafaray and Blender is given.

Chapter 13 introduces animation and Blenders Game Engine and shows the reader how to integrate models and scenes into Blender's animation system. The process of creating basic animatics and renderable animations is covered, as is how to take those animations and make them into a playable movie file. Blender IPO curves and NLA editor are covered briefly showing how they are used and how they can modify the timing of animations. Lastly on the animation side of things Blender Game Engine is used to make an interactive animation which allows the user to navigate around a 3D scene using the keyboard, so as to explore a building model. Although coverage of Blender Game Engine was very brief, it gave enough information to allow someone who has never used it to make a walk-through using it. Even though it was a small section it does give Blender a unique feature that other systems don't generally have.

Chapter 14, moves outside of Blender and covers how to use the Gimp application to carry out certain post production tasks such as color balancing and correcting hypothetical errors which could be introduced in to render. While Post Processing in Gimp is very useful and often needed, I do think that attention should have been put on Blender's Node editor as at least for color correcting Blender's Node editor is the more Blender centric way to do things. Still the coverage of GIMP was clear, someone who has little experience with Gimp will have no problem following along.

Chapter 15 is the final chapter and is a new chapter that didn't exist in the older version of this book. It covers some of the changes that will be coming when the Blender 2.5x series is stable and finally released. The chapter does not go into any great detail on using the newer version of Blender other than describing how to reorganize its interface. No attempt is made to actually build anything using it. This is probably just as well because since this part of the book was written the Blender 2.5 series has moved on quiet a bit and a lot of the information written about it would be out of date. Even so it does serve as a heads up on what to expect when the new version of Blender is released.

Overall this has been a good book. It won't make you an expert in any of the areas it covers, but it doesn't try to. It gives you enough information to get tasks done. The previous version of this book was littered with grammatical errors and some repeating sections, thankfully this updated version does not suffer from either of those problems and is a very useful book.

Review Score 75%

NASA

Submission + - Students Help Shrink Satellite To Football Size

An anonymous reader writes: A couple of students helped to develop a small satellite named 'Firefly', which was literally the size of a football, designed to study the most powerful natural accelerator on the Earth, lightning. A couple of University of Maryland-College Park students applied for an internship to help construct a satellite instrument with scientists at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The satellite that Saman Kholdebarin and Lida Ramsey helped to develop was literally the size of a football.
Technology

Submission + - Spray-On Tech Could Power Consumer Devices (discovery.com)

disco_tracy writes: A new spray-on polymer could lead to the development of e-readers that display not in black and white, but in every color of the rainbow. When combined with solar technology, the new treatment could power portable electronics and even homes and businesses. Developed by scientists at the University of Florida, the new spray-on polymers can reflect or transmit any color of light. With a simple spray, they can be applied to hard glass or flexible plastic.
Censorship

Submission + - Google's New Transparency of Government Action (blogspot.com)

eldavojohn writes: From availability of mainland China services to Iran's throttling of YouTube since elections to the United States government's requests for user's information, Google has announced new visualization tools to see how your government is affecting to Google and more importantly Google users. The NY Times notes this is in compliance with some prior privacy issues and also points out that this data is real-time. There is a lot of data to look at here, including the popularity of Google's services by country. Hopefully Google will finer granularity in these reports.

Submission + - Time to upgrade the Elo chess rating system (kaggle.com)

databuff writes: About six weeks ago, Slashdot reported a competition to find a chess rating algorithm that performed better than the official Elo rating system. The competition has just reached the halfway mark and the best entries have outperformed Elo by over 8 per cent. The leader is a Portrugese physicist, followed by an Israeli mathematician and then a pair of American computer scientists. The fact that Elo has been so comprehensively beaten is a sure sign that half a century after it was developed, it's due for an upgrade.

Submission + - Canadian Space Agency launches Aurora Borealis cam (www.cbc.ca)

An anonymous reader writes: It's been a desire of a lot of people so see the Canadian northern lights for themselves. Well, short of taking a trip to the Canadian northern regions a person was not able to enjoy them, until now. The Canadian Space Agency has announced they are launching a live webcam of the northern lights. A Canadian Space Agency spokesperson said the AuroraMax live streaming feed would begin after dusk, around 9:30 p.m. MT (11:30 p.m. ET).

Live Web Cam: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronomy/auroramax/default.asp

Submission + - Europe embraces Open Document format (ffii.org)

Elektroschock writes: The European legislature has decided to support the open document format as to advance electronic business. It asks the European Commission take concrete steps to support the adoption of ODF 1.2 and its spread. Open Document is an open standard implemented in the latest incarnations of Microsoft Office, Open Office, Google Docs, Abiword and many other products.
Google

Submission + - Google annouces mobile Docs editing (thinq.co.uk)

Stoobalou writes: Google has announced another trick up its sleeve for Google Docs users — editing directly on a mobile device.

As well as the recently-announced two-factor authentication system, which uses your smartphone as a key to unlock access to your account, Google has confirmed that editing of Google Docs files on iOS and Android-based devices is coming Real Soon Now.

It's a move the company can't make fast enough. Not being able to make small changes to your documents on the go was a pain in the days of the iPhone and the T-Mobile G1, but now Apple's iOS and Google's own Android are finding a new niche — slates and tablets.

Censorship

Submission + - MPAA Asks If ACTA Can Be Used To Block Wikileaks (techdirt.com)

An anonymous reader writes: With the entertainment industry already getting laws to block certain sites, it appears they're interested in expanding that even further. The latest is that at a meeting with ACTA negotiators in Mexico, an MPAA representative apparently asked if ACTA rules could be used to force ISPs to block "dangerous sites" like Wikileaks. It makes you wonder why the MPAA wants to censor Wikileaks (and why it wants to use ACTA to do so). But, the guess is that if it can use Wikileaks as a proxy for including rules to block websites, how long will it be until other "dangerous" sites, such as Torrent search engines are included...

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