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Comment Re:New 3D engine? (Score 1) 316

A lot of games with 'high end' graphics like Crysis or Age of Conan for example, have APPALLING color depth.

"High-end" graphics has nothing to do with colour depth, per se. I think that it has much more to do with:

(1) the "photo-realism" effect that those games were aiming for (as opposed to the "fantasy" setting of WoW); for better or worse, Age of Conan was aiming to be "dark and gritty", for instance; and,

(2) laziness on the part of the developers. For example, I think that both Age of Conan's and Crysis' opening levels were fairly colourful, but the colour tended to wash away as the game wore on, suggesting that the graphics artists spent more time at the beginning than the ending.

(In contrast, I was fairly impressed by a recent Star Wars: The Old Republic walkthrough video which showed a really vibrant, interesting universe.)

Comment Re:New 3D engine? (Score 1) 316

You bring up two interesting points:

- WoW's graphics look dramatically out-of-date (after all, the game was released in 2004, with comparatively minor updates done over the years, and the polygon counts are simply too low)
- zones appear to be completely unable to handle a load of, say, more than ~40 players actively engaged in close-quarters PvP combat (witness the 'Wintergrasp' zone)

  That said, it is unlikely (in my opinion) that the lag you experience in WoW when there are many players in a zone has much to do with the graphics engine, and probably has much more to do with Blizzard's "backend". From what I have personally experienced as a WoW player (and as an experienced software developer), I suspect that their database server isn't able to keep up with the massive number of queries/inserts/deletes that are required during active PvP. This doesn't necessarily point to a problem with the DB engine itself -- it usually arises because of poor database layout (there is a certain "art" to database design, balancing normalization vs. redundancy to reduce query frequencies, setting up indices, and so forth), poor SQL (it never ceases to amaze me the kind of queries that some people write), and poor overall use of the system (meaning, the server is simply processing so much information that it gets bogged down). I think that this is a fundamental issue with the WoW server/backend which has existed in the game from its inception, but which had been cleverly hidden in most regular play scenarios (e.g., generally by imposing a 40-man cap in the instanced dungeons/battlegrounds/etc.).

Given my conjecturing, I didn't find it at all surprising that Blizzard has a job open specifically focused on "performance implications of database architecture choices". But of course, this is all an opinion & speculation, so who really knows.

Comment Re:Low (Score 1) 674

MS Word isn't "more widely used than TeX" in the academic community.

In a typical IEEE or ACM journal or conference, I would estimate that easily 98% of the papers are written in LaTeX (judging by the fonts and the layouts).

And, at least in engineering, most Master's or Doctoral theses are written in LaTeX.

The reasons for this are simple:

(1) BibTeX offers better bibliography formatting & support than anything provided by MS Word.

(2) When used in combination with a source code control system like CVS, LaTeX simplifies collaborative document writing. (e.g., multiple researchers can work on the same .tex file and simply have CVS merge changes together.)

(3) Writing complex documents -- such as a doctoral thesis -- where one must have a ToC, LoF, LoT, and multiple appendices each with their own bibliography can require a substantial amount of time to format in MS Word. (You'll be inserting section breaks, worrying about running vs. non-continuous headers & footers, page number consistency, and so forth.) On the other hand, these tasks are largely taken care of for you by existing LaTeX templates.

(4) Various advantages when representing complex equations.

Comment Re:Waterloo (Score 1) 383

As a Waterloo grad student, I can say for sure that Waterloo's relaxed IP policies help in securing funding from industry.... (Companies are more likely to fund research if they can benefit from it directly, and they can do so more easily when the researchers that they fund are not hindered by draconian IP regulations.)

Comment Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (Score 2, Insightful) 367

> most people are not even knowledgeable enough
> about their computers to even understand what
> free software is all about, why it matters, and
> why they should care.

To add to this, I think that there are many people who are familiar with free software, but who do not want to go to Stallman's extent of refusing to use or interact with non-free software.

Personally, I view software like I view any other tool in my workshop: I have some tools that I've made myself (on a lathe and all), I have some tools that I was given for free, and I have some tools that I went to Home Depot and bought outright. I use each of them, in different ways, for different tasks in order to maximize my overall efficiency and minimize my overhead.

In much the same way, I use free software for some tasks and commercial software for others. To blindly commit myself to using either free or non-free software would severely impact my productivity.

(I think that there are a lot of people who employ a similar, "moderate" philosophy.)

Comment Dont' understand the hype (Score 1) 266

I've never understood the draw behind "neural networks" ... it's a really cool-sounding term for an otherwise not-so-exciting algorithm.

A neural network lets you determine an approximation to a function for which there may be no closed-form expression. It's basically a piece-wise linear approximation with heuristic edge-waiting, where the edge weights are "trained" by inputting numerous samples to the "neural network".


The Orange Box Review 358

"PC Gaming is dying," the analysts tell us. "The Massive genre is the only viable business model left," websites report. That they're off the mark is obvious to anyone that's actually played a PC game in the last few years; games like Sam and Max , Battlefield 2 , or any of the numerous puzzle titles available online prove the flexibility and strength of the PC platform. Then, every once in a while, you get an offering like the Orange Box. A value-packed storm of content from Valve, this single sku offers five complete games at an amazing price. That would be great, even if the games weren't any good ... but they are. They're very, very, very good. Read on for my impressions of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and (the cake is a lie) Portal.

Blackberry "Spy" Software Released 91

Noryungi writes "Maybe the French were on to something after all. It turns out that there is a software available to easily spy on Blackberries, recording voice conversations and all messages (emails or SMS text message) that transmit through the portable device. Of course, the software has to be installed by the owner of the Blackberry, but it would not be surprising to find out that someone has found a way to silently auto-install that software on RIM devices. ZDNet reports that RIM isn't concerned: 'Ian Robertson, senior manager of security and research at RIM, said users need not be particularly worried about the capability of FlexiSPY. "While it's the subject of some debate, I don't consider it a virus nor a Trojan, as it does require conscientious effort from the user to load the program," he said. Robertson said an average user that maintains good [gadget] hygiene would never see the software loaded onto their device without their knowledge.'"

Plan For Cloaking Device Unveiled 342

Robotron23 writes "The BBC is reporting that a plan for a cloaking device has been unveiled. The design is pioneered by Professor Sir John Pendry's team of scientists from the US and Britain. Proof of the ability of his invention could be ready in just 18 months time using radar testing. The method revolves around certain materials making light "flow" around the given object like water."

2006 ACM Programming Contest Complete 180

prostoalex writes "World finals for 2006 ACM programming contest took place in San Antonio, TX this year, and the results are in. Russia's Saratov State University solved 5 contest problems in record time, followed closely by Altai State Technical University (Russia) with 5 problems solved as well. University of Twente (Netherlands), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China), Warsaw University (Poland), St. Petersburg State University (Russia), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), Moscow State University (Russia), University of Waterloo (Canada) and Jagiellonian University - Krakow (Poland) all completed 4 problems."

Wal-Mart Controls Modern Game Design? 696

An anonymous reader writes "That Wal-Mart smiley face is looking pretty evil now that Allen Varney has explained how much influence they have on virtually every modern game: 'Publisher sales reps inform Wal-Mart buyers of games in development; the games' subjects, titles, artwork and packaging are vetted and sometimes vetoed by Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart tells a top-end publisher it won't carry a certain game, the publisher kills that game. In short, every triple-A game sold at retail in North America is managed start to finish, top to bottom, with the publisher's gaze fixed squarely on Wal-Mart, and no other.'"

Pentium Computers Vulnerable to Attack? 227

An anonymous reader writes "One of the latest security scares is coming from security experts at CanSecWest/core '06 in the form of a possible hardware-specific attack. The attack is based on the built-in procedure that Pentium based chips use when they overheat. From the article: 'When the processor begins to overheat or encounters other conditions that could threaten the motherboard, the computer interrupts its normal operation, momentarily freezes and stores its activity, said Loïc Duflot, a computer security specialist for the French government's Secretary General for National Defense information technology laboratory. Cyberattackers can take over a computer by appropriating that safeguard to make the machine interrupt operations and enter System Management Mode, Duflot said. Attackers then enter the System Management RAM and replace the default emergency-response software with custom software that, when run, will give them full administrative privileges.'"

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