Ostracus writes: Odd as it may seem to some of you, my online persona is no different than millions of others. If you traverse the blogs and forums and websites of the World Wide Web, you will find that those who choose to be exactly what they are in real life on the net as well are in a minority. From elves to vampires, klingons to anime cat-girls, cartoon characters to movie stars, the face worn by the majority of netizens is rarely the one they wear in daily life.
Ostracus writes: The cellphone is the world's most ubiquitous computer. The four billion cellphones in use around the globe carry personal information, provide access to the Web and are being used more and more to navigate the real world. And as cellphones change how we live, computer scientists say, they are also changing how we think about information.
Ostracus writes: New York — The American newspaper is dead. Long live the American newspaper!
OK, so reports of the demise of daily journalism are a bit premature. But you can't open up the newspapers today without reading bad news about the papers.
Declining circulation and advertising revenues have forced newsrooms to trim their staffs, which means less real reporting. A few city papers have closed — the most recent victim was Denver's 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News — while others fill their pages with fluff pieces or wire-service stories. Put simply, it's getting too expensive to gather news.
So here's a novel idea: Let's get university professors to do it. For real. And, best of all, free of charge.
Ostracus writes: If the economic crisis goes on much longer, will there be any newspapers left in the US to write about it? America's newspaper industry has been badly hit by the downturn, and a number of titles face closure. The latest casualty is the venerable San Francisco Chronicle, whose owners on Wednesday announced they were planning to cut a "significant" number of jobs to meet cost-cutting targets, and that if the targets are not met, then the paper would be sold or closed down.
Ostracus writes: Almost 40 years ago, American scientists took their first steps in a quest to break the world's dependence on plastics.
But in those four decades, plastic products have become so cheap and durable that not even the forces of nature seem able to stop them. A soupy expanse of plastic waste — too tough for bacteria to break down — now covers an estimated 1 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
Sensing a hazard, researchers started hunting for a substitute for plastic's main ingredient, petroleum. They wanted something renewable, biodegradable, and abundant enough to be inexpensive.
Ostracus writes: A group of researchers led by Peidong Yang, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, have recently created nanoscale particles that can self-assemble into various optical devices. These include photonic crystals, metamaterials, color changing paints, components for optical computers and ultrasensitive chemical sensors, among many other potential applications. The new technology works by controlling how densely the tiny silver particles assemble themselves.
Ostracus writes: RV740 is often misunderstood as the successor to RV730 which in fact is far from it. RV740 is expected to take the market by storm by Q2 next year as the best value/performance chip from AMD. It is AMD's first 40nm GPG chip with all IP being re-designed and characterized for 40nm.
Ostracus writes: I don't think it can have escaped anyone's attentions that there was a reasonably significant election in America recently. And they got me thinking.
Barack Obama is 47. By contrast, David Cameron — who leaps to mind as another potential national leader in the coming years, whatever you may think of that fact — is 42. I got to thinking about what a national leader might look like in ten years time, 2018. Let's suggest, based on Obama and Cameron, that they're 45.
They're 45 in 2018 when they stand for office — that means they were born in 1973. They would have been four when Taito released Space Invaders came out; seven when Pac Man came out. In 1985, when they were 12, Nintendo would launch the NES in the west. At 18, just as they would have been heading to University, the first NHL game came out for the Genesis/Megadrive and might consumed many a night in the dorm. At 22, the Playstation was launched. At 26, they could have bought a PS2 at launch; at 31, they might have taken up World of Warcraft with their friends.
They would have been a gamer all their lives. Not someone who once played videogames, trotting out the same anecdote about "playing Asteroids once" in interviews; someone for whom games were another part of their lives, a primary, important medium. Someone who understood games.
And if that was the case, what might they have learned?
Ostracus writes: Nokia, and Segway's inventor, Dean Kamen, recently announced a competition which invites innovators to submit new applications for mobile communications that can improve the world. The prize, $25,000, will be given in three different categories: eco-challenge, emerging markets, and technology showcase, along the guaranteed fame that tends to be attached to the "saving the world" title.
Ostracus writes: Researches at the University of Washington have recently developed a system, which for the first time, offers an instantly customizable approach to user interfaces. Each participant in the program is placed through a brief skills test and then a mathematically-based version of the user interface optimized for his or her vision and motor abilities is generated. The current off-the-shelf designs are especially discouraging for the disabled, the elderly and others who have trouble controlling a mouse, because most computer programs have standardized button sizes, fonts, and layouts, which are designed for normal users.
Ostracus writes: Nicole Haase would like to work harder than she does. But as a receptionist and payroll administrator for a manufacturing firm in Milwaukee, she finds limited opportunities to take on more duties.
"Work is slow, and we're a small company, so it's not always easy to find other things to do," Ms. Haase says. To fill empty moments, she e-mails friends and works on freelance writing assignments. "The Internet is my friend — anything to make the time pass," she says, adding that the strain of having too little to do creates its own kind of burnout.
Ostracus writes: Plastic Logic, a spin-off company from the Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory, has recently released its design of a future electronic newspaper reader. This lightweight plastic screen copies the appearance, but not the feel, of a printed newspaper. This electronic paper technology was pioneered by the E-Ink Corporation and is used in the current generation Sony eReader and Amazon.com's Kindle. Plastic Logic's device, yet to be named, has a highly legible black-and-white display and a screen more than twice as large compared to current versions available on the market.
Ostracus writes: After the secret source code for its then-unreleased shooter Half Life 2 showed up on BitTorrent in 2003, gamemaker Valve Software cooked up an elaborate ruse with the FBI targeting the German hacker suspected in the leak, even setting up a fake job interview in an effort to lure him to the United States for arrest.