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Comment The real burning question ... (Score 1) 122

"The real burning question is: if a single Software Libre Engineer can teach themselves PCB design and bring modular computing to people on the budget available from a single company, why are there not already a huge number of companies doing modular upgradeable hardware?"

Well, because it is economical BS. 99.9% of the market doesn't give a damn about modularity (cf. scaling back of the project Ara from Google) or whether or not the device designer had to sign an NDA to get documentation for a chip or not or whether there is only libre software in it. All that only makes the hardware more complex, more difficult to produce and in the end more expensive.

The fact that they have to crowdfunding campaign (which isn't exactly going gangbusters) is the evidence.

The openness, the libre software, the modularity are things which matter to geeks but are not a sustainable business model alone. These people need to get out of their ivory tower sometime.

Comment Since when is hand-building a PC for games ... (Score 1) 729

... something required?

If you don't have the manual skill and technical knowledge, there are pre-built machines. If you want a "just works" experience, buy a console. But whining that something is "hard" only because it actually requires some homework and skill which you don't have is not going to help.

Heck, most people are incapable of changing oil in their cars, some can't replace even a flat tire or a broken lightbulb. And nobody seems to whine that driving is difficult because of it.

This story just screams self-entitlement. "Me wanna!" - and if I can't handle it, it is everyone else's fault, because I am too cheap to actually pay someone competent to do the job for me.

Seriously mind boggling.

Comment Priorities (Score 1) 146

It is really good to see that the Tories, having fixed that pesky EU brexit problem, have moved on to the next important issue already.

It just shows what they are really after - now, with the EU regulations possibly out of the window, they can get rid of stupid commie crap like worker protections, human rights or privacy protections. Let's do everything to make the rich even richer and screw everyone else.

Comment Haven't we been there before already? (Score 1) 342

Ah, another savior of the programming world telling us we are all doing it wrong and only their clicky graphic language is the right way to teach programming.

There is Alice, there is Scratch, Logo, Baltazar, Karel ... and countless more of these simple education-oriented toy languages. And they work and they did work - for teaching kids the very basics. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem is that:
a) kids quickly "grow out" of them - they want to do some real stuff like write "real" games, hack in Minecraft, make robots "do stuff", etc.

b) the step from a toy visual, "clicky" language to an abstract, text-based one is *STEEP*, even if the student understands the algorithmic logic of how the program needs to be put together already (and they are often still pretty shaky on that front at that point!). The abstract thinking needed to understand the syntax and the link between the syntax and the semantics of the code needs to be learned first.

Making that step is needed to be able to claim that we have taught the student to program, because 99.9% of real-word code is not created by mouse clicking. Unfortunately, these education-oriented tools do very little to make that step easier. Very often they actually do exactly the opposite, by hiding the commands and treating textual code as if it was an infectious disease to be confined to some isolated corner, being deemed "too complex", if they even allow the user to see it in the first place. That is a pedagogically counterproductive approach, IMO. A much better option is showing it side-by-side, so that the student can see and compare, building on what what they know already.

So selling this stuff as some sort of silver bullet solution is pretty much an indication that someone just has no idea of what it takes to actually teach programming.

Comment Re:This is why VR will fail. (Score 2) 47

Because:

a) AR is not the same thing as VR or a replacement for it. Those two technologies are pretty much orthogonal to each other, with different use cases. Saying "AR is better/will replace VR" is like saying an airplane will replace car. Both are means of transportation but serving different purposes and used at different times.

b) Hololens is unable to generate a fully immersive scene - has narrow field of view and a lot of problems with achievable contrast (as any see-through display) in brightly lit spaces. This is important for sense of presence. Making a fantasy game (for example) believable is going to be difficult if you have the real world visible in your scene, unless your objective is to make dragons roam your living room. Not a problem for VR.

c) Nobody knows how well (or whether at all) the tracking on Hololens performs - all that was presented were carefully orchestrated demos in controlled conditions and no specs are known. Again not something that is comparable.

d) Performance of the embedded ARM/Intel CPU/GPU combo on something like Hololens is far behind what a desktop CPU/GPU combo are capable of. Hololens is likely comparable to something like GearVR performance-wise and those require a lot of "dumbing down" of the content in order to achieve reasonable frame rates. Moreover Hololens has to also do the optical tracking of the surrounding scene which GearVR does not do - making the problem even worse.

e) Motion sickness is less a factor of how fast the tracking/rendering is but much more a function of content. You can have usable VR at 30fps with no motion sickness and a totally atrocious experience at 120fps if the content is poorly built.

Disclosure - working with VR since 1998 or so :)

Comment Re:Palmer Suckey (Score 1) 78

Well, hindsight is always 20/20. When Oculus started, focus on the sitting user with a controller sounded like a very sane first step. There were no good large area tracking solutions available for $100-$200 (the cheapest "pro" starts around $2000-3000 just for tracking). Remember STEM? That was supposed to be the solution.

The concept of "room scale" consumer VR didn't exist until after about 2 years after Oculus has been committed to their system already. I am sure they would have gone with it if there was a robust tracking solution available back then.

The lack of "room scale" is not a problem. The tracking actually works OK for reasonable room sizes (I have the Rift CV1).

The killer is the lack of tracked hand controllers (the non-interactive demos in the Oculus Dreamdeck where you can only passively watch but are unable to do anything are totally ridiculous) - why they didn't bundle at least the Razer Hydra with the headset when they saw Vive being released complete with controllers and their own are delayed until late this year is beyond me. Even a poor motion controller is better than a gamepad. I have used Hydra with my Rift to play with the SteamVR Lab demos and it worked fine for the most part.

The second killer is poor/non-existent content. Right now all you can get are some silly games that will bore you to death after few minutes - even Eve Valkyrie. Eve looks stunning, but ultimately it is just space deathmatch in a small arena with invisible walls and *A LOT* of prodding for you to pour in real money to buy stuff. That gets boring fast. Paying $60-80+ for a platformer only because it is "VR"? (aka you see it 3D and can look around but there is nothing more "VR" than that about it). That's just crap.

They seem to be heavily invested in 360 degree "VR" movies. However, they can't even get the short clips that are bundled with the Dreamdeck right - often poor resolution and short, limited content. Like, few minutes of watching waterfalls from the air, from National Geo ... It is totally non-interactive, the only thing you can do is to look around. The quality often sucks too because the clips are upscaled for the high resolution of the Rift. Watching a normal movie with the hot, fogging up, sweaty headset stuck to your face? They really think someone will want to actually do that? Yet it is offered ... I just don't see anyone who would actually want to watch this stuff beyond trying it out and to actually *pay* for it.

The Vive content, in comparison, is actually fun, even if you don't buy anything and just tinker with the bundled demos from the Lab. Heck, that stuff is fun even if you use it with the Rift and Hydra (which actually works, unlike Oculus' platform locking out Vive users).

Finally, what has actually the chance to sour people over their platform before it had even chance to take off are the recent boneheaded moves with the preorders, shipping, the DRM issue, etc.

The "lack of roomscale" is certainly not the issue with the Rift ...

Comment Re:PC master race! (Score 5, Insightful) 78

The big difference is that the 0.01% of DRM haters were a drop in a bucket of Sony customers but they are pretty much *all* the clients Oculus has at the moment.

Outside from the early adopters who have pre-ordered the device, developers and some journalists nobody else has Rift. And these are the people who are getting hosed - first by getting the SDK closed, Linux/Mac versions cancelled, then shipping being delayed, the preorders not being honored/devices given to retail first, now the DRM BS.

Pissing off your only and very vocal customer base while there is a competitor with a better product is a seriously daft move.

Comment Re:Palmer Suckey (Score 1) 78

The thing is, it is very unlikely that it is Palmer who is making these decisions. He is only the founder and the public face of the company, but does not hold any executive position in the company.

These are decisions made by the Oculus C-level execs and Facebook to protect their walled garden app store. The HMD is pretty much only a prop to rope you in into selling you more stuff through the store.

Of course, that doesn't absolve Palmer from responsibility for what he has said. He shouldn't be promising things he can't deliver. I can only hope that the money he has got through shares was worth selling out his personal integrity and becoming essentially a sock puppet where someone else is making all the decisions and pulling the strings while leaving him looking bad because it contradicts what he has said earlier.

It also means that in spite of what Palmer said at the start, that Rift will be open and what not, it will never happen. DRM and open sourced code just don't work together.

The promised Linux support is likely dead for good now as well - there is no economic incentive for it and since they are so hard pushing for the monetization of the platform, reputation and bad press be damned, it is very unlikely that a "charity project" like that would be approved. Also DRM would be harder to implement and maintain on an open platform like that.

It is sad to see a good project go down the drain like this only because someone got greedy. Alienating early adopters when they are your only customers and basically everyone else is waiting for their opinion before spending the non trivial amount of money on your product is a very rapid way to hell.

For the record, I am one of the early backers of the Kickstarter project and have received both the DK1 and my free CV1 Rift HMDs ...

Comment Re:AR / Windows (Score 2) 171

AR not really. The display looks almost opaque when displaying anything, so that is not useful for displaying believable overlays over a real world scene - which is what you need for AR.

This is mostly useful for signage, ads and similar stuff, assuming the prices will be reasonable.

Also I am not that enthusiastic about AR being a competitor to this, as implied by the poster - for AR to work a precise registration of the overlay with the real scene is required. That means cameras and goggles and a lot of computing power. The tracking and image processing problems inherent in this are far from solved, especially for applications outside of the lab.

Displaying random stuff on a transparent surface (aka Google Glass) is not AR by itself. That's just something like an airplane/car HUD.

Comment I wouldn't worry too much about this (Score 1) 382

The only practical consequence will be that now you will have to carry a proprietary dongle/adaptor that will convert from USB to the usual analog jack, because being tied to the universally crappy headphones commonly sold with the phones is going to be even less popular than this.

BTW, the USB consortium actually explicitly discourages putting on USB jacks on the headphones themselves in the spec.

I think the consumers will vote with their feet - fragile, expensive proprietary dongles that you need to carry only so that the manufacturer can save a few cents and millimeters in the phone are not going to be popular. They never were - like the early phone camera add-ons which were in this form.

I wouldn't be worried about DRM here. Who is recording music through the analog jack of their phone?? And pretty much nothing else is concerned - purely digital analog interfaces for computers have been around for decades and have never managed to push out the purely analog interfaces. People simply want to connect their stereos and loudspeakers. The only reason for this is cost cutting and space saving - especially Samsung and Apple are taking this to the extreme at the expense of usability.

Comment Re:How about a choice... (Score 1) 120

The problem is that this directive does not achieve that. The only thing you get (also here on Slashdot if you are in EU) is an interstitial asking you to accept the privacy policy/TOS/cookies. And then it is business as usual, with those 9000 random cookies, evercookies, adverts and pingbacks.

This law is addressing the symptom (cookies) and not the cause - companies wanting to hoard, mine and sell their visitors' data.

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