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Excalibur Almaz To Offer Commercial Orbital Flights 76

xp65 alerts to the plans of an international consortium called Excalibur Almaz Limited to open up a new era of private orbital space flight for commercial customers. The group, consisting of Russian, US, and Japanese companies, will use a formerly top-secret Soviet re-entry vehicle called Almaz to carry paying research crews on one-week missions into Earth orbit by 2013. This ambition represents a large step beyond the sub-orbital flight market so far targeted by most other private space companies. "Excalibur has raised 'tens of millions of dollars' to initiate what will become a several hundred million dollar program, [CEO] Dula tells Spaceflight Now. He has spent more than 20 years eying this specific Almaz program... He also says 'the business plan closes' generating profits within a few years. His surveys have found research and science customers for space missions that are not tourist hops, but less demanding than ISS operations."

XP Users Are Willing To Give Windows 7 a Chance 720

Harry writes "PC World and Technologizer conducted a survey of 5,000 people who use Windows XP as their primary operating system. Many have no plans to leave it, and 80% will be unhappy when Microsoft completely discontinues it. And attitudes towards Vista remain extremely negative. But a majority of those who know something about Windows 7 have a positive reaction. More important, 70 percent of respondents who have used Windows 7 say they like it, which is a sign that Windows 7 stands a chance of being what Vista never was: an upgrade good enough to convince most XP users to switch."

Submission + - Bots bend it like Beckham (

Muhammad Fahd Waseem writes: "While football has been taking a summer break, teams of programmers have been taking part in a league of their own, the 13th annual Robocup.

Football brings nations together in a celebration of the beautiful game, but what if the football players did not need to train, or even get paid?

At the Robocup, recently hosted in the Austrian city of Graz, athletic automata have been doing battle on and off the pitch.

It is not as easy as humans make it look, in particular getting a robot to appreciate the finer points of the offside rule is a whole new ball game.

Robocup teams come in many forms, the physical characteristics range from R2D2 through to C3PO via a strange robot puppy hybrid.

Creating technology, be it hardware or software, that is good at football requires a lot of effort. It requires mastery over team work, real-time perception and decision making — difficult enough for some human players, let alone mechanical ones.

The robotic players in a team either talk to each other on the pitch, like a real game, or they all listen to a central computer which issues instructions, formulates tactics, and then controls them via radio — a football manager's dream.

A typical match at the Robocup involves four robot players and one goalkeeper. The camera above the pitch gathers information and sends it to the central computer for guidance.

Alongside the real robots, Robocup also runs a software competition, where programmers make use of their own AI code to create the ultimate simulated soccer team.

Majid Gholipour, professor of the Mechatronic Centre at Iran's Azad University of Ghazin claims that the Robocup is a much friendlier version of the game than human football.

"The goal in sport is usually to win, but here the goal is to make a leap forward in programming," he said. "For example, in the Software League, everyone is expected to release their codes, and place them at the disposal of the other teams.

"Some teams even set up workshops, and tell the other teams: 'look guys, we have made inroads in these areas, so if you want to use them for next year to make progress, you can.'"

The ultimate goal of the competition's creators is to pit human players against a dream team of robot counterparts within the next few decades.

For Gerald Steinbauer of Graz University of Technology, the main goal is to the continuing development of the technology:

"If we reach this goal, it's not so important," he said. "More important is what we are doing on this road to 2050 and if you look back at the last 13 Robocups, there was such good technology and approaches developed, that there is hope that we will have another useful development in the future.""

Comment Re:Psychology (Score 1) 399

I could quote a study that compared gaming consoles owned to the job of the main earning member of the family. Problem is, it was taken by a print magazine in Pakistan (where I live), and I couldn't refer you to it. But I admit I may be wrong to generalize it for the rest of the world, particularly US.

Comment Psychology (Score 0) 399

It probably has a lot to do with psychology too. Consoles are generally used by richer people (children and adults) who, in addition to owning a computer, can afford to own consoles too (people who own consoles, in all likelihood, own computers before they own consoles).

These people are then less likely to be smiffed by a surcharge of a few dollars. Not that they like paying it, but they have fewer gripes. Companies, of course, home in on this very psyche.

The fact that consoles are closed also makes matters different, like so many before me have commented. But if the demographic it caters to failed, how would paid DLC ever have taken off?

Comment Re:Not enough outsourcing, I suppose (Score 2, Interesting) 246

Actually, I happen to live in one of the countries I mentioned, and I happen to be involved in the related circles. I can tell for certain that all IT companies actually come back over and over again to these 'low cost' outsourcing centres. What surprises me is that no game developers ever do...

Submission + - Why use free software if I can get mine pirated? (

superphysics writes: "I live where pirated software is easy to obtain. As in, really, truly easy. You don't even have to go through the hassle of downloading: it sells on $0.5 disks on each corner of every market.
I keep telling them it's illegal, and bad, but morals never persuade well. I keep telling them to use legally free (or open source) software. Linux, even, though everyone around already has Vista Ultimate or XP Professional. And who ever heard of Adobe CS4 Master Collection for more than $2?

1. Am I mad?
2. I need good reasons to persuade the pirate buyers elsewise...
P.S.: None of them will ever be caught, they're out of legal bounds. And security is as good as a pirated NOD32 can provide..."

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