Henry V.009 writes: Rebecca Christie was convicted of a 2006 murder, today. The New Mexico mother let her 3-year-old toddler starve to death while she played World of Warcraft. According to one article (sorry, you'll have to click on the ad to view), "the house was filled with cat feces, moldy food and unwashed dishes when the child was taken to an Alamogordo hospital emergency room with severe dehydration." More here, including comments by Rebecca's fellow WoW players.
Henry V .009 writes: From Zed Shaw's newest rant: Honestly, how many of you people who use open source tell your boss what you're using? How many of you tell investors that your entire operation is based on something one guy wrote in a few months? How many of you out there go to management and say, "Hey, you know there's this guy Zed who wrote the software I'm using, why don't we hire him as a consultant?" You don't. None of you. You take the software, and use it like Excalibur to slay your dragon and then take the credit for it. You don't give out any credit, and in fact, I've ran into a vast majority of you who constantly try to say that I can't code as a way of covering your ass.
Henry V .009 writes: Dave Morin of Facebook Twittered from TED2009: "Bill Gates just released mosquitos into the audience at TED and said, 'Not only poor people should experience this.'" Indeed. Cue the Vista jokes.
Henry V .009 writes: I'm a systems administrator at a mid-sized college. Our users keep falling for the "Please send us your password" Webmail scam emails that are going around. At first it was only the non-English speaking grad students who would fall for it. Later, as the messages got more sophisticated, the professors began falling for it. And now even the undergraduates are sending out their passwords to the spammers. Currently we use an email intercept list that catches all messages to a small number of the scammer's reply-to addresses. We have a large message on our webmail page asking users to please not give out their passwords. Our spam filters catch many, but not all, of the incoming scam messages. And still I have to spend my weekends revoking accounts. What else can I do?
Henry V .009 writes: MobileRead points out this Writer's Weekly story, calling what Amazon is doing to their print-on-demand publishers "blackmail". Amazon is trying to use their online market share to drive independent print-on-demand presses out of business, in favor of Amazon's own press: Booksurge. Use Booksurge, Amazon is telling publishers, or see your books taken off their site. Legal competition? Possibly. Good for the book business, book lovers, or Amazon's brand? Not so much (cf. this well-loved monopoly). A lot of small publishers are hoping that the "bad press" will get Amazon to drop their noxious new business practice.
Henry V .009 writes: "You are reading this on Slashdot, which means I can give you the short version: go read Halting State by Charles Stross.
Or at least go read the prologue. Mail-Allegedly-From: recruitment@DO_NOT_REPLY.round-peg-round-hole.com. Subject: Attn Nigel — job offer. Auto-Summary: A job offer, vaguely menacing. Spam-Weighting: 70% probable, but worth a look.
And if that's not enough, check out my review.
Charles Stross is a U.K. author specializing in, ah, well it's what Vernor Vinge would be writing if Vinge were a Linux hacker instead of a CS professor. His short story A Colder War and his novel The Atrocity Archives are fun, Lovecraftian, cyberpunk, based on an alternate Cold War between superpowers that faced off with weapons that make nuclear-tipped ICBMs seem oddly comforting (at least they won't eat your souls), a world where Turing successfully completed his last theorem on "Phase Conjugate Grammars for Extra-dimensional Summoning," and where the Nazis had come within a hair's breadth of brute-forcing the same research with the simpler expedient of mass sacrifice.
Stross is probably most famous for his novel Accelerando which is described on his website as "a family saga that follows three generations of a dysfunctionally postmodern lineage right through a Vingean singularity, as recounted by the family's robot cat. It's much, much weirder than that, though."
Halting State is his newest novel, set in the near-future, with a rather simple premise: A bank robbery. By a dragon. Together with a band of orcs. In a virtual game. Of a virtual bank.
Only this virtual bank is run by a very non-virtual company with distressingly realistic public stock offerings.
Which is a silly premise. You can't steal from a virtual bank, and if you could, it would be done through a hack or bug, and it wouldn't matter whether you had a band of dragons or of lowly slimes. The bank couldn't be robbed unless the game mechanics permitted it, and if they permitted it, then it's a game, not a robbery, right? So if you don't know who Stross is, and have only read the description of Halting State on Amazon.com, you might be considering giving it a pass.
Which would be wrong. If you do know Stross, then you know that he knows what he's doing. The real story is about stolen encryption keys, online alternate reality games that have a lot more reality to them then they should, and the hellish spectre of a world where MMORPG griefers have gotten their hands on some serious counter-intelligence capabilities.
The story has several main characters, a distressingly typecast sword-wielding insurance-adjuster babe, a interestingly typecast unemployed code-monkey, and a lesbian heavily Scottish-accented cop — I don't really know what that last one is doing there, but that's what makes it a Charlie Stross novel. Now cue the world getting saved by mad hax0r-ing, and you know the plot.
The book isn't all beer and skittles, however. No book with multiple main characters should be written in a second-person third-party narrative. The chapter headings make it clear who "you" is at any given time, but it's just not a joy to parse. If I were Charlie's editor, I could certainly understand the impulse to let creative genius have its space, but dammit, sometimes you've got to squash genius like the ugly bug it is, before it has the chance to grow into a monstrosity.
With that caveat, I heartily recommend Halting State. It's a must read for anybody with enough nerd in them to be reading Slashdot.
And here are the first three chapters if you'd like to whet your appetite while waiting for the book to ship:
Henry V .009 writes: The The New York Times describes the life of a Chinese World of Warcraft "Gold Farmer": At the end of each shift, Li reports the night's haul to his supervisor, and at the end of the week, he, like his nine co-workers, will be paid in full. For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20.
Henry V .009 writes: The Times Online reports that Google's power is 'less than thought.' Google boosts of taking on Microsoft with its free web applications and comes second to none in customer loyalty. But is its vaunted online advertising presence a myth? According to the article, doubts are beginning to take hold as eBay begins its Google boycott: "Before I pulled the data, I was expecting a bigger drop given the drastic removal of sponsored listing ads by eBay," [Bill Tancer] said. He added that that the impact of eBay's advertising withdrawal was reduced by the fact that 25 per cent of users visiting the internet auctioneer from Google do so after searching for eBay, rather than by clicking on one of the "sponsored links" that appear next to other search results.
Henry V .009 writes: A Ph.D. physicist friend of mine (whose research has been covered on Slashdot before), wants to know if technology didn't take a wrong turn a few decades ago. In 1950s science fiction the computers of the 21st century were as big as a building — but faster than light drives were easy. Were the imagined worlds of 1950s science fiction better than what we actually got? My friend asks, would you rather live in a world with laptop and desktop computers, or one with interstellar travel?
Henry V .009 writes: The Albuquerque Journal reports that Federal authorities have just charged Rebecca Wulf for allowing her 3-year-old daughter to starve to death, surrounded by "cat feces, moldy food and unwashed dishes" while Rebecca played World of Warcraft. I thought Slashdoters might want an early heads up on what is likely to become a big news story. Having worked with abused children in the past, I can say that the stories I hear of WoW addiction cases are on the level of hard drug addiction stories — in my opinion at least, this can no longer be dismissed as a 'you can be addicted to anything' issue anymore.
Henry V .009 writes: New Jersey scientists are claiming that children with autism are unable to metabolize key fatty acids which fight brain-damaging inflammations. They have already developed urine/blood tests to identify at risk children. A preventive cure to autism may be as simple as a 'therapeutic cocktail' of fatty acids.