dryriver writes: Elon Musk's OpenAI initiative has released a download package (http://deepdrive.io/) that lets interested tinkerers work on developing their own self-driving car tech. If you combine a valid copy of Grand Theft Auto 5 for Windows with this download package, you get a self-driving agent that you can test drive on the roads of San Andreas.The agent actually appears to "see" what is going on inside GTA 5 through machine vision, rather than direct access to game data such as where other cars, pedestrians are. The initiative wants to give people other than select Tech Giants and Car Companies a chance to develop self-driving technology. Don't worry — if the the AI you are creating causes an accident, the damage stays inside GTA 5's virtual world. The package also removes guns, prostitutes, fistfights and other "distractions" from GTA 5 — this is all about testing self-driving AI in an environment as close to the real world as possible. While GTA 5 runs on a Windows machine, the self-driving AI agent appears to run on Linux and OS X. Happy self-driving!
dryriver writes: I'm a heavy headphone user. It doesn't matter what headphones I buy — Sony, Philips, Logitech you name it — the headphones typically fail to work properly within a few weeks of purchase. It is never the headphones/earbuds themselves that fail. It is always the part of the headphone cable where the small wires connect to the almost indestructible 3.5mm metal headphone jack. Result? Either the left or right ear audio cuts out and you need new headphones. Putting 1/2 a cent worth of extra rubber/plastic/metal around that part of the cable to strengthen it would likely fix the problem very effectively. The headphones would last for a year or even longer. But almost no manufacturer seems to do this. I keep trying new models and brands, and they all have the same "cable goes bad" problem — earbuds that came with a Sony MP3 player I bought developed the problem within 15 minutes of first use. My question to Slashdot: Do headphone manufacturers do this deliberately? Do they think "We'll sell 40% more headphones each year if the average pair doesn't last beyond 3 months of normal use" and engineer a deliberate weakness into the headphone cable? How can these major brands with all their product engineers not be able to strengthen the most obviously failure-prone part of the headphone cable a bit?
dryriver writes: Somebody I know has been searching up and down the internet for an open source software that can apply GPU pixel shaders (HLSL/GLSL/Cg/SweetFX) to a video and save the result out to a video file. He came up with nothing. So I said "Why not petition the open source community to create such a tool?" His reply was "Where exactly does one go to ask for a new open source software?" So that is my question: Where on the internet can one best go to request that a new open source software tool that does not exist yet be developed? Or do open source tools only come into existence when someone — a coder — starts to build a software, opens the source, and invites other coders to join the fray?
dryriver writes: A lot of content creators or "digital creatives" using professional 3D, Video, Image Manipulation, VFX type software have recently been forced into accepting a mandatory SAAS or "Software As A Service" licensing model. What is SAAS? Basically, you cannot buy a perpetual license for software you use or a "Boxed Product" with install discs anymore. You can only "rent" the software on a monthly or yearly basis. The software goes online regularly to check whether you have "paid your rent for this month". The minute you stop paying, the software shuts itself off and refuses to run. When this happens, you cannot even open or view your old project files anymore. To open old files your created back in 2012, you need to re-rent the software. Software made by Autodesk and Adobe currently forces this SAAS model on all customers. You simply cannot buy professional DCC software like 3D Studio, Maya, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects anymore. You can only "rent it". The software also doesn't run offline anymore. It needs to connect to internet servers regularly to perform a "license check". What is your view of "forced SAAS" licensing? Isn't it the equivalent of saying "Sorry, but you simply cannot buy or own a car/house anymore. You can only rent one from us for X dollars a month. When you stop paying your rent? Well, we just take the car/house away from you."?
dryriver writes: Just a few years ago the future seemed bright for 3D TVs. The 3D film Avatar smashed all box office records. Every Hollywood Studio wanted to make big 3D films. The major TV set manufacturers from LG to Phillips to Panasonic all wanted in on the 3D TV action. A 3D disc format called BluRay 3D was agreed on. Sony went as far as putting free 3D TVs in popular Pubs in London to show Brits how cool watching Football ("Soccer" in the U.S.) in Stereo 3D is. Tens of millions of dollars of 3D TV related ads ran on TV stations across the world. 3D Televisions and 3D content was, simply put, the biggest show in town for a while as far as consumer electronics goes. Then the whole circus gradually collapsed — 3D TVs failed to sell well and create the multi-Billion Dollar profits anticipated. 3D@home failed to catch on with consumers. Shooting genuine Stereo 3D films (not "post conversions") proved to be expensive and technically challenging. BluRay 3D was only modestly successful. Even Nvidia's Stereo 3D solutions for PC gamers failed. What, in your opinion, went wrong? Were early 3D TV sets too highly priced? Were there too few 3D films and 3D TV stations available to watch (aka "The Content Problem")? Did people hate wearing active/passive plastic 3D glasses in the living room? Was the price of BluRay 3D films and BluRay 3D players set too high? Was there something wrong with the Stereo 3D effect the industry tried to popularize? Did too many people suffer 3D viewing related "headaches", "dizzyness", "eyesight problems" and similar? Was the then still quite new 1080HD 2D Television simply "good enough" for the average TV viewer? Another related question: If things went so wrong with 3D TVs, what guarantee is there that the new 3D VR/AR trend won't collapse along similar lines as well?
dryriver writes: A few years ago I bought a multiplayer war game called Soldner that I had never heard of before. (The game is entirely community maintained now and free to download and play at www.soldnersecretwars.de) The professional reviews completely and utterly destroyed Soldner — buggy, bad gameplay, no singleplayer mode, disappointing graphics, server problems and so on. For me and many other players who did give it a chance beyond the first 30 minutes, Soldner turned out to be THE most fun, addictive, varied, sattisfying and multi-featured multiplayer war game ever. It had innovative features that AAA titles like Battlefield and COD did not have at all at the time — fully destructible terrain, walls and buildings, cool physics on everything from jeeps flying off mountaintops to Apache helicopters crashing into Hercules transport aircraft, to dozens of trees being blown down by explosions and then blocking an incoming tank's way. Soldner took a patch or three to become fully stable, but then was just fun, fun, fun to play. So much freedom, so much cool stuff you can do in-game, so many options and gadgets you can play with. By contrast, the far, far simpler — but better looking — Battlefield, COD, Medal Of Honor, CounterStrike war games got all the critical praise, made the tens of millions in profit per release, became longstanding franchises and are, to this day, not half the fun to play that Soldner is. How does this happen? How does a title like Soldner that tried to do more new stuff than the other war games combined get trashed by every reviewer, and then far less innovative and fun to play war games like BF, COD, CS sell tens of millions of copies per release and get rave reviews all around?
dryriver writes: I got together with old computer nerd friends the other day. All of us have been at it since the 8-bit / 1980s days of Amstrad, Atari, Commodore 64 type home computers. Everybody at the meeting agreed on one thing — computing is just not as cool and as much fun as it once was. One person lamented that computer games nowadays are tied to internet DRM like Steam, that some crucial DCC software is available to rent only now (e.g. Photoshop) and that many"basic freedoms" of the old-school computer nerd are increasingly disappearing. Another said that Windows 10's spyware aspects made him give up on his beloved PC platform and that he will use Linux and Android devices only from now on, using consoles to game on instead of a PC because of this. A third complained about zero privacy online, internet advertising, viruses, ransomware, hacking, crapware. I lamented that the hardware industry still hasn't given us anything resembling photorealistic realtime 3D graphics, and that the current VR trend arrived a full decade later than it should have. A point of general agreement was that big tech companies in particular don't treat computer users with enough respect anymore. What do Slashdotters think? Is computing still as cool and fun as it once was, or has something "become irreversibly lost" as computing evolved into a multi billion dollar global business?
dryriver writes: The highly invasive and possibly Russian owned and operated website http://iknowwhatyoudownload.co... immediately shows the bittorent download history for your IP address when you land on it. What's more, it also shows the torrenting history of any specific IP address you enter, and also of IP addresses similar to your's, so you can see what others near you — perhaps the nice neighbours in the house next door — have downloaded when they thought nobody was looking. Upon clicking on somebody else's IP link in my range, for example, I found that the person had downloaded a tremendous amount of Porn content of a certain rather embarrassing type in what they thought was the privacy of their own home. The website highlights XXX content in bright red on its download list, a feature that appears explicitly designed to embarrass people who torrent porn. There is also a nasty little "Track Downloads" feature that lets you send a "trick URL" to somebody else. When they click on the URL — thinking its something cool on Facebook, Twitter or the general internet — THEY see what they URL promised, but YOU get sent their entire torrenting history, including anything embarrassing or otherwise compromising content they may have downloaded in private. A website this malicious and invasive can only have been built by the big content producers to deter people from downloading piratedcontent methinks. The website appears to offer an API, customized download reports and more to interested parties in the hopes of generating big cash from making other people's torrenting activities public. I wonder how long it takes before some teenager commits suicide or similar because his school friends sent him a "trick URL" from this site that outed him/her as downloading gay porn or similar.
dryriver writes: The BBC reports: The tail of a feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years. Examination of the specimen suggests the tail was chestnut brown on top and white on its underside. "This is the first time we've found dinosaur material preserved in amber," co-author Ryan McKellar, of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, told the BBC News website. Co-author Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, added: "It's amazing to see all the details of a dinosaur tail — the bones, flesh, skin, and feathers — and to imagine how this little fellow got his tail caught in the resin, and then presumably died because he could not wrestle free."
dryriver writes: Phys.org reports: A key glacier in Antarctica is breaking apart from the inside out, suggesting that the ocean is weakening ice on the edges of the continent. The Pine Island Glacier, part of the ice shelf that bounds the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is one of two glaciers that researchers believe are most likely to undergo rapid retreat, bringing more ice from the interior of the ice sheet to the ocean, where its melting would flood coastlines around the world. A nearly 225-square-mile iceberg broke off from the glacier in 2015, but it wasn't until Ohio State University researchers were testing some new image-processing software that they noticed something strange in satellite images taken before the event. "It's generally accepted that it's no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt, it's a question of when," said study leader Ian Howat, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State. "This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes."
dryriver writes: The website propornot.com (as in 'propaganda or not') has created an experimental Chrome browser extension that flags links on websites which originate from known Russian or pro-Russian-viewpoint propaganda or fake news sites with 3 red 'YYY' letters. The Chrome extension is a real eye opener — try installing it in Chrome, then browsing a website like rense.com, where the browser extension flags a massive number of news links with red YYYs. This, and similar digital tools, could be the beginning of internet browsers being able to warn users against propaganda and fake news content.
dryriver writes: The Guardian reports: Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be “a major setback if not devastating”.“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era,” he said. “It would be extremely short sighted".
dryriver writes: CNN reports: For what appears to be the first time since scientists began keeping track, sea ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic are at record lows this time of year. "It looks like, since the beginning of October, that for the first time we are seeing both the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice running at record low levels," said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who has tracked sea ice data going back to 1979. While it is too early to know if the recent, rapid decline in Antarctic sea ice is going to be a regular occurrence like in the Arctic, it "certainly puts the kibosh on everyone saying that Antarctica's ice is just going up and up," Meier said. The decline of sea ice has been a key indicator that climate change is happening, but its loss, especially in the Arctic, can mean major changes for your weather, too.
dryriver writes: Scientists have produced the first global maps of human emissions of carbon dioxide ever made solely from satellite observations of the greenhouse gas. The maps, based on data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite and generated with a new data-processing technique, agree well with inventories of known carbon dioxide emissions. No satellite before OCO-2 was capable of measuring carbon dioxide in fine enough detail to allow researchers to create maps of human emissions from the satellite data alone. Instead, earlier maps also incorporated estimates from economic data and modeling results. The new (OCO-2 based) maps show widespread carbon dioxide across major urban areas and smaller pockets of high emissions. Human emissions of carbon dioxide have grown at a significant rate since the Industrial Revolution, and the greenhouse gas lingers in the atmosphere for a century or more.
dryriver writes: According to ABC, back in 2006, Buma/Stemra (Dutch Music Royalties Collection Agency) approached a Dutch musician, Melchior Reitveldt, to write some music for an anti-piracy ad, with the strict proviso that this music would be played only and exclusively at a local film festival. Mr. Reitveldt wrote the music, it was played, he got paid and all was well. But then, in 2007, he bought a Harry Potter DVD and to his surprise, there was his music in the anti-piracy ad at the beginning. His composition had been taken and used without his permission. In fact, it had been illegally used on dozens of movie DVDs, both in Holland and overseas. So Mr. Reitveldt went to the Buma/Stemra music royalty collection agency to clear up this misunderstanding, and ran into a brick wall. Nothing happened for a long time, and then pathetically small refunds were offered, and then they weren't paid in full, and the delaying tactics went on and on.The breakthrough came in 2011, 5 years later, when he secretly recorded a Buma director cynically telling him that "things could be sped up" if he let them "buy the music" for 1 Million Euros. The director had to resign in disgrace. In June 2012, a court ordered Buma/Stemra to repay the money.