Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Wisconsin Strategy (Score 2) 757

Political pundits often claim that part of the reason you pick the VP candidate should be to help win a key state. Obviously that wasn't an issue with Palin in 08 since Alaska is dark red, but Wisconsin has been light blue the last couple elections, and with Scott Walker surviving his recall election here, perhaps Romney is hoping Ryan will help flip the state red? As a native Wisconsinite I don't think it's too likely... The state hasn't gone red that often, in fact you'd have to go back to 1984 to find Wisconsin flipping red in a Presidential election. Still, past performance isn't always a guarantee and the Romney team might feel energized by Walker's recall victory. Then again it could just be that Romney is afraid the base thinks he's too moderate and wants a loyal Tea Party running mate to fire up the base. That has the potential to backfire though, since moderate voters might shy away from Ryan, and elderly voters will almost certainly have a hard time voting for the guy that prioritizes tax-breaks for millionaires over social security and medicare. And of course Ryan is now going to be thrust into the spotlight more than he's ever been in the past, with every last detail of his life examined and scrutinized. I have no reason to believe there's any skeletons in his closet, but if there are you can bet the media will dig them up. Overall though the VP pick is really only important in what it shows about the Presidential candidate, and Romney has had a problem of never really wanting to commit on issues since he's likely afraid whatever he says will come back to bite him. His VP pick is obviously something he can't easily walk away from, but I think it's too early to tell if it will help or hurt him.

Comment Plasticity (Score 5, Informative) 171

How timely, I just read a blog post about brain plasticity. Basically, the list of activities that do not alter the brain is probably much shorter than the list of activities that do. The human brain is constantly rewiring itself. Here's an article about a study that shows brain plasticity may be even more radical than we thought, possibly even reprogramming the genomes of individual neurons: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/11/genome.html

Comment Way to keep us informed? (Score 5, Insightful) 434

Funny that I had to read about this on Slashdot. You think they could send out a mass email to everyone with a Steam account, especially when credit card numbers are involved (even if they're encrypted). I hate inbox clutter as much as the next guy, but Gabe himself says to watch your credit cards for suspicious activity (which is never a bad idea), but how are Steam users supposed to know to do so if we don't read the Steam forums, or read Slashdot? Seems like they kinda dropped the ball on the whole communication thing here...

Comment Better not tell Rick Perry (Score -1, Offtopic) 228

I know this is horribly OT but I can't resist. Rick Perry says evolution is full of holes and that nobody knows how old the Earth is (with the clear implication that he's pandering to the fundamentalists that say it's 6000 years old). So when I see an article like this about the real, actual science behind human origins I can't help but feel a combination of shame and rage that a candidate for the highest office in the United States is essentially sticking his fingers in his ears and saying "La la la, I can't hear you, reality."

Comment Re:Games (Score 1) 481

I agree with everything you wrote. Why Netflix is going to offer game rentals, and then I went to make a sandwich. Hey look a bunny rabbit.

I have to admit, that's pretty funny. Except, dear AC, in my post I did warn you that I was about veer offtopic in parenthesis (like these) in hopes that I would preemptively prevent comments such as yours. Bravo though, that was better than I was expecting. I fully admit that my style of communication is rather rambling, both online and in real life, because I tend to see abstract connections to topics that most people view as entirely unrelated. In fact going from Netflix offering game rentals to a rant about game demos is a pretty short stretch compared to most of my ramblings. So consider yourself lucky!

Comment Total Lack of Cognitive Dissonance (Score 5, Insightful) 2115

What's going to be entertaining (in the sense that the sad circus of American politics is entertaining) about this whole thing is to watch the about-face the conservatives will make about how much money it takes to be rich. Recently, various state governments have been going after unions, and you see conservative commentators on the various shows talking about how teachers make enough money, how $30-40k a year is plenty when you consider union benefits, blah blah. Now these same exact people are going to go on the same exact shows and, with a straight face, say how those poor folks making a million a year are just struggling to get by and really need a break in this kind of economy while completely ignoring the fact they've spent a better part of a year telling us a teacher's salary is downright lavish. How does a conservative's head not explode from the cognitive dissonance? Do they actually simultaneously believe these polar opposite stances they take, or are they (like all politicians) simply bought and paid for by their masters and puppet whatever talking points they are fed?

For those of you who are going to dispute my point, here are some preemptive replies. First, I know that folks on the left do this shit all the time too. I remember Kerry's "flip flopping" helping cost him the 2004 election. But pointing to the other side and saying "See, they do the same reprehensible thing we do" does not actually make it okay. It's still downright disingenuous. My point is simple: How much money does it take to be rich? Because the conservatives in America have two different definitions that depend not on the amount income, but essentially on class. The fact that these same conservatives are the first to scream "Class Warfare!" at this kind of proposal is deliciously ironic and the whole thing would be fucking hilarious if the stakes weren't so high.

Reality check: to solve the long-term debt crisis, two things need to happen. Taxes need to go up, and spending needs to go down. Either side that says you can do one but not the other is living in some magical fairy-tale land where facts are superseded by what they wish were true.

Comment Games (Score 4, Informative) 481

Missing from this submission is the news that Netflix/Qwikster will now offer game rentals. I suppose that's not a big deal to everyone. I'm sure gamefly isn't happy about it, but competition should be great right? Personally I rarely if ever rent games, since I tend to play a demo first (and if there isn't one, pirate) and if I like the game I purchase it through Steam, so that I can get up-to-date patches, play online, and have that warm fuzzy feeling of supporting the developers. I wish the industry was more receptive to demos, because they do work, for good games at least.

For example (an off-topic gaming story follows here), I recently watched X-Men: First Class and the American/Soviet ships primed for battle with each other put me in a Red Alert mood. I had never played the third game in the franchise, because when it came out I was raiding heavily in WoW and not playing anything else. Anyway, I went to check the price on Steam to find out if I had to get a pirated version as a sampler first, and to my surprise there was a free demo. The demo only offered two missions, but after spending an hour messing around with the various units in one mission I decided it was certainly worth the $20. Moral here is, game demos make sales, at least if the game is any good. But it seems to me like the industry simply expects you to rent the game if you want a sample, or else pay the full price, which is likely one of the driving forces of game piracy. Obviously the whole "free of charge" thing is a major draw for pirates, but I can imagine I'm not the only person who buys games, but won't waste $20-$50 until I'm certain it's something I will get several hours out of.

Submission + - Netflix Announces Rebranding of Mail Service (netflix.com)

feidaykin writes: "According to the Netflix blog, the company will be rebranding its movies-by-mail service to "Qwikster." Co-Founder and CEO Reed Hastings says the new name refers to "quick delivery." Qwikster will also offer game rentals. The Netflix name will continue to be used for streaming content. Hastings also offers an apology for the recent pricing debacle, claiming he "messed up" the announcement. On the topic of further pricing changes, he states that "we're done with that!""

Comment The community (Score 3, Insightful) 432

I think the biggest barrier for entry for women gamers isn't the games themselves, but the gaming community. We all know of The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, but women get presented an even uglier side of online gaming. This site has some good examples: http://fatuglyorslutty.com/

It seems the moment a female gamer reveals her gender she's automatically the target of the most vile and despicable comments the online community has to offer. Granted, most gamers are thick skinned and can brush this stuff off. But it makes me wonder how many women have tried playing a game, had an experience similar to the ones at the site above, and gave up entirely. It would be nice if the online community were a little friendlier. We would all have more fun that way, regardless of gender.

Comment Standard Model is enough (Score 1) 729

From a blog post at Cosmic Variance: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/09/29/seriously-the-laws-underlying-the-physics-of-everyday-life-really-are-completely-understood/

I've copy/pasted the relevant portion here:

Obviously there are a lot of things about the workings of the human mind that we don't understand. So how can we be so sure that new physics isn't involved? Of course we can't be sure, but that's not the point. We can't be sure that the motion of the planets isn't governed by hard-working angels keeping them on their orbits, in the metaphysical-certitude sense of being "sure." That's not a criterion that is useful in science. Rather, in the face of admittedly incomplete understanding, we evaluate the relative merits of competing hypotheses. In this case, one hypothesis says that the operation of the brain is affected in a rather ill-defined way by influences that are not described by the known laws of physics, and that these effects will ultimately help us make sense of human consciousness; the other says that brains are complicated, so it's no surprise that we don't understand everything, but that an ultimate explanation will fit comfortably within the framework of known fundamental physics. This is not really a close call; by conventional scientific measures, the idea that known physics will be able to account for the brain is enormously far in the lead. To persuade anyone otherwise, you would have to point to something the brain does that is in apparent conflict with the Standard Model or general relativity. (Bending spoons across large distances would qualify.) Until then, the fact that something is complicated isn't evidence that the particular collection of atoms we call the brain obeys different rules than other collections of atoms.

Comment "End" has variable definitions... (Score 1) 585

"End of the world" is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot but it could mean a lot of things. The end of human civilization? Or a dramatic transformation to the planet Earth such that it is either no longer a planet, or not recognizable as the one it was previously? The first could happen a lot sooner than the second. The Earth itself is a dense ball of rock with iron in the middle. It's built to last. Life, on the other hand, is a bit more fragile. Somewhere between 500 million and 1 billion years from now, the surface of the Earth will too hot for water to remain liquid on the surface. That's essentially a deadline for all life on Earth. The planet itself will get along just fine without a biosphere though, and is likely to survive up until the Sun's red giant phase 7.5 billion years from now, at which point it will probably be engulfed by the Sun. This is not entirely certain though, because the orbital mechanics are complicated by a number of variables like tidal forces. The good news, though, is that by this time the Sun should be hot enough that temperatures on Titan may be suitable for life as we know it. Maybe that's how solar systems evolve? Life grows ever further out in a solar system until the star "stabilizes" as a white dwarf. That reduction in temperature might kill off everything left, unless life evolved close to the white dwarf to benefit from the remaining light and heat. If so, such lifeforms would have a very promising future since white dwarfs take much longer than the current age of the universe (13.7 billion years) to cool into a black dwarf.

Comment Phasers (Score 4, Interesting) 158

I love Star Trek, a lot. I'm sure I fit every possible stereotype of a Trek nerd, including ones that are contradictory. But there was one thing that always, always bugged me about Star Trek, even as a kid.

Phasers are essentially inferior to contemporary firearms. For starters, they are actually slower than bullets. You cannot dodge a bullet (in real life, anyway). But there are several examples of the Enterprise crew dodging phaser/disrupter blasts in TNG. Granted, it's possible to retcon this by saying it's some sort of charged plasma that doesn't travel at the speed of light blah blah. But my point is not that it doesn't travel at light speed (which is obvious) but that it's actually SLOWER than a bullet. Which raises the question, why on Earth (or in the Alpha Quadrant, for that matter) would they use essentially inferior technology? If our present day firearms are superior to phasers, why the switch? It defies all logic.

And don't even get me started on the horrible scene in Star Trek: First Contact where the Borg have adapted to Picard's phaser so he lures them into the holodeck and mows them down with a tommy gun. So, 1940s machine gun > 24th century phaser. And they don't keep a stash of machine guns in a weapon's locker? Hell, they can't even replicate a few dozen? Sigh.

Really, it's easier to suspend disbelief about Warp Drive even though that violates everything we know about relativity and modern physics than it is to accept the concept of the phaser replacing the superior firepower we already have in this century.

Anyway, angry Trek nerd rant mode off. Sorry about that.

Comment Wouldn't be shocking.. (Score 5, Interesting) 537

Is anyone shocked when one of those "family values" politicians, preaching about the sanctity of marriage and the evilness of a culture that glamorizes homosexuality comes out of the closet? Or in the case of Larry Craig, gets busted trying to have sex in a men's room? It doesn't shock me anymore, since it seems the most passionate moral crusaders are really crusading against their own personal desires.

Hell, look at "culture warrior" Bill O'Reilly. Remember the Andrea Mackris thing? She had transcripts of alleged phone conversations that are clear examples of sexual harassment (and the detailed nature of the transcripts lead people to believe she had recordings). Bill O paid her a bunch of money to shut up and never spoke of it again. Sexual harassment is wrong when anyone does it, but it seems doubly wrong when you preach day in and out about morals and the "dangers" of things like rap music.

I guess, essentially, the gist of my post here is that people are often hypocrites, so hypocritical behavior does not shock me at all. So a group of extremist Muslims who feel strongly enough about their religion to blow up thousands of innocent (including Muslim) Americans happen to enjoy porn when nobody is looking. Not surprised. In fact, it makes me wonder aloud here if the religion is just an excuse for the killings, and if what people like bin Laden were really upset about was Israel and our support of it, that it's more of a territorial dispute than a religious one, but it's just a lot easier to get people to fly planes into buildings if you tell them 72 virgins will greet them afterward. I mean, I tend to notice the folks at the top of these terrorist organizations aren't the ones blowing themselves up. Think maybe they have some doubts about whether or not they end up anywhere afterward?

But then again I shouldn't read too much into this one incident, it is after all just some porn. Just a thought though - maybe if bin Laden's wives didn't have to be covered head to toe, he wouldn't need a stash to get off.

Comment Re:Feeling bad for them. (Score 1) 150

funny, my opinion is that wow is in the best state it has ever been in. granted, with a game as old as wow, it is hard to recapture that shiny newness that a fresh mmo has. but wows endgame has never been better. now 10man raids are on equal footing with 25 mans since the loot is identical. this means players no longer feel forced to run both 10 and 25 mans to advance. this gives smaller guilds a huge advantage, making wows endgame more accessable than it has ever been. at the same time, the game is far from dumbed down - the heroic 5 mans are quite challenging (at least for pugs) and the raids have a mix of easy, somewhat hard, and crazy insane bosses. there is literally something for everyone now. anyway, if any slashdotters read this, i play as raymer on whisperwind alliance and will gladly help run you through some quests or dungeons and whatnot.

Comment PC gaming has changed (Score 1) 195

Gaming on the PC is not dead, even though some have been claiming the end is near for at least ten years now. But, gaming on the PC has changed quite a bit in the last decade. If you look at the gaming environment on the PC a decade ago, a bit longer even, in the late 90s with the launch of the first GeForce... gaming on the PC was a much larger affair - big budget games that took a big budget PC to play. Developers expected PC gamers to be on the bleeding edge, and for the most part they were. Sure, some developers tried to market to the low-end niche. But the general sense seemed to be, if you were gaming on the PC you had a beast of a rig for it, and all the big budget developers tailored their games with that in mind.

Now things have really changed. There a lot more PCs out there, but the high-end gaming enthusiast is a very small portion of computer users. So developers, with a few exceptions, tend to target those low to mid range systems out there, since that's where the market is... it's no longer reasonable for developers to expect a gamer to have a state of the art system. As a good example to this, I can't help but mention the elephant in the room when it comes to PC gaming: World of Warcraft. Easily one of the most popular PC games in the world. While WoW obviously requires more hardware than your average Facebook game, it's really not by much. They've made sure to design the game so it will run on a very low end machine, like the kind you can pick up at Walmart for under $500. Now, a game like WoW does have advanced shader features and DX11 stuff that can be toggled on for those with higher end systems, but none of it is required. Sure, the higher end machines make it look better and run faster, but it's a huge shift from the late 90s where developers just expected gamers to have high end machines to play their games at all.

Now, before someone points out that my example, WoW, is already several years old, I would point that Blizzard just released an expansion at the end of 2010, and if they wanted they could have totally reworked the game engine for high end systems (while that would be an expensive endeavour, if anyone could afford to it's Blizzard). They did not though, because Blizzard knows that having more systems able to run the game increases the potential market.

That's not to say games for high end systems don't exist on the PC anymore, since they obviously do, but they seem to be the exception instead of the norm these days. And a lot of those high end games are cross-platform, so they only require high end systems because they're competing with the current generation of consoles (which, I admit, isn't hard given this generation of consoles seems to have outlived all previous generations). I guess my long-winded point here is that the landscape of the PC gaming world has changed. High end systems are no longer the default assumption like they were a decade ago. I think overall this is good for gamers, since instead of being an expensive niche hobby, PC gaming is within the reach of anyone who can own a very modest PC.

Slashdot Top Deals

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers. -- Pablo Picasso