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Submission + - Conway's Game of Life Freed from the Pixel Grid (

Guillermito writes: What happens when you take the well known Conway's Game of Life and modify the rules so they can be applied to a continuous world, instead of the original, pixel-based, discrete one? Well, that is the question the authors of the SmoothLife project are trying to answer: They have generalized Conway's Game of Life to a continuous domain. Rather than working with discrete square cell, the software works at the level of points in a continuous 2-D space. A cell lives or dies depending on how much of a small disk in its immediate neighbourhood is filled, and also the density of a ring surrounding the cell. You can see some amazing 2D and 3D animations created with this software that really resemble living cells under a microscope.

Submission + - Microsoft Starts Rolling Out New Xbox 360 Dashboard (

hypnosec writes: Microsoft has started rolling out the new Xbox 360 dashboard today with some new features such as Internet Explorer, a Xbox Music app among others. The 7 years old Xbox dashboard didn’t receive a redesign or an update for quite a long time and this is the reason Microsoft rolled one out today. Some of the major changes include recommendations and ratings, pinning, Xbox video, enhanced search on top of the IE browser and new music app. Some of the minor changes include resizing of fonts and more tiles on the screen.

Comment Re:R language (Score 1) 180

I'd also suggest R. One of the problems with visualizing complex data sets is that, almost by definition, the prepackaged graphics tools don't allow you to create custom-designed graphics that suit the particular data-set you're working with. But with a bit of programming in R you can get amazing results.

There are some R packages that can help too -- I write about one of them, ggplot, here. (Disclaimer: I work for a company that provides support for R.)

Comment Re:*sigh* (Score 1) 734

I was also disheartened to hear that my wife, a Japanese national with a green card, might now have to use the foreigners line at customs again. This is related to another law that will be taking effect soon (or already). For those who don't know legal permanent residents (Green Card holders) have been allowed to get in the US citizens line and, I believe, aren't required to give finger prints or have their picture taken (as they are already on file from immigration). This makes it easier for families in which one or more members may not be citizens to go through customs and immigration together (big help when you have kids).

I didn't know about that either -- I don't think it's gotten much publicity. A little googling turned up an article on an obscure website. Life is about to get a lot harder for legal green card holders entering the the US.

Comment Re:I don't get it (Score 3, Informative) 1475

If Google wants to offer insurance benefits that include gay partners, well they can do so.

That's not quite true -- although as a state issue, Prop 8 doesn't have anything to do with this. Like hundreds of other benefits, health insurance has a FEDERAL tax benefit tied to marriage. Even if an employer offers insurance to a same-sex partner, that partner has to pay tax on the full retail value of that insurance, as if it were income. Only a married partner can receive health insurance without the additional tax burden. Because insurance on the retail market is so expensive, the additional tax often makes the insurance unaffordable (as I can attest from experience).

That's one reason the marriage issue is so important to same-sex couples. Many federal benefits are tied up with the act of marriage, in law.

Comment Re:Based on S (Score 1) 382

The modified R sources have always been available alongside the binaries at, and there's now a link on the REvolution R download page as well.

If you want to get a Linux binary, download the sources and compile it. It should work fine on recent versions of RHEL and SLES if you have the necessary toolchain, but YMMV on other variants of Linux. That's the only reason why we currently don't provide free (as in beer) binaries for Linux -- there are so many variants that it's difficult and costly for us to test and support them all.

As an open-source company we support and respect the GPL. We're here to support R and R community, and changes to core R made by our development team (such as 64-bit support on Windows, which we're working on now) are contributed back to the development community via the GPL as they should (and must) be.

Comment Re:Based on S (Score 1) 382

That can be a problem (but Google returns meaning results for searches involving R these days).
That said, there's a *lot* of information out there about R. The r-help mailing list in particular is very active (making r-help a good term to add to a Google search).

I maintain a blog about R with the aim of collecting the most useful information in one place. (Disclaimer: I do this as part of my work for a company that provides commercial support for R.)

Comment Re:Free as in beer (Score 1) 382

R isn't just free as in beer, it's also free as in freedom: it's under GPL2. It's the freedom given to all those statistical and programming experts to tinker with R that's made it what it is today. (The use of the word "freeware" by the SAS person seemed like a deliberate slight on FOSS to me.)

There are non-free-as-in-beer (but still free-as-in-freedom) versions of R too: I work for a company that provides support for R (under the name REvolution R) with a model similar to Red Hat Linux. The market share for R is now more than large enough for it to be viable for commercial organizations to support it.

Comment Re:VaR - just the wrong number for the job (Score 1) 286

And even that understates the real extreme risk. In your example, $50M is the minimum loss 1% of the time only when the model is correct (more details here). But if the model's wrong (and it is when everything's going to hell), the minimum loss is probably much much larger, as many banks recently discovered.

Comment Re:VaR - just the wrong number for the job (Score 1) 286

I would even go so far as to say VaR is a decent number used by the wrong people. From a statistical perspective, VaR is a perfectly decent statistic, given the model's correct. Even if the model's wrong (and all models are), as long as it's measured consistently it's a useful indicator when the underlying financial processes are changing, in much the same way as six-sigma analysis is useful in manufacturing. Part of the problem is that there's often pressure from non-statisticians to change the way it's measured ("stuffing the tails" from the article), or for using it for inappropriate purposes (like in financial statements), or simply persisting on continuing to use it when the model is clearly now wrong (LCTM in 1998, everyone except Goldman Sachs today.)


Submission + - Head Tracking for VR Displays using the Wii remote

MorseKode writes: Johnny Lee did it again, using the infrared camera in the Wii remote and a head mounted sensor bar (two IR LEDs), you can accurately track the location of your head and render view dependent images on the screen. This effectively transforms your display into a portal to a virtual environment. The display properly reacts to head and body movement as if it were a real window creating a realistic illusion of depth and space.

Submission + - Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the Wi 1

MorseKode writes: "Johnny Lee did it again, using the infrared camera in the Wii remote and a head mounted sensor bar (two IR LEDs), you can accurately track the location of your head and render view dependent images on the screen. This effectively transforms your display into a portal to a virtual environment. The display properly reacts to head and body movement as if it were a real window creating a realistic illusion of depth and space."

Submission + - WARNING: driver updates causing Vista deactivation (

KrispySausage writes: "After weeks of gruelling troubleshooting, I've finally had it confirmed by Microsoft Australia and USA — something as small as swapping the video card or updating a device driver can trigger a total Vista deactivation.

Put simply, your copy of Windows will stop working with very little notice (three days) and your PC will go into "reduced functionality" mode, where you can't do anything but use the web browser for half an hour.

How can this ridiculous situation occur, and what is Microsoft's response... read on."


Submission + - 10 million Pokemon's traded in Diamond and Pearl (

Pacman15 writes: "According to the last Japanese Famitsu online report, 10 million Pokemon characters have been traded online by players of Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl in both Japan and North America.

The article indicates that over 500.000 Pokemon's have been traded in Japan since the games release in September 2006. The games were released in North America on April 22nd, and will be released in Europe the 27th of July."

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