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Indie Game Developers Talk About Why They Struck Out on Their Own

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about three weeks ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Technology writer Jon Brodkin sat down with a group of indie game developers (as well as a professor at the University of Southern California's game-design program) to talk about why they decided to launch their own small studios rather than stick with comfortable (albeit stressful) jobs at major firms like Disney or Zynga. The answer, as you'd expect, boils down to control. “Working for a bigger company is a good way to gain experience, and learn how games are made,” said Graham Smith, one of the co-founders of Toronto-based DrinkBox Studios. “It’s also nice to have a steady salary coming in as you learn the ropes. On the flip side, depending on the company, you might not have much control over the game’s design, or even be making the types of games that you enjoy playing.” But startups come with their own challenges, not the least of which is the prospect of an economic downturn quickly wiping you out, or not making your Kickstarter goal."
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Designer Brews Beer, Prints Resume on Side of Custom 4-Pack, Scores Job

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about a month ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Canadian graphic designer Brennan Gleason wanted to attract more work, so he came up with a novel concept: custom-printing his resume on boxes of the beer he brews as a sideline. “I brewed up a nice blonde ale, so I figured it would awesome to use it to promote myself and my work,” Gleason wrote in a post on Dribbble. “Box contains the resume and the bottles each contain a piece of my work.” In addition to some bits about his work history, the carton labeling features a prominent link to his personal website. The best part? His creative effort reportedly gained him a few job offers. And if the employer loves beer, a resume on the side of a beer carton could go a long way toward scoring that job interview, provided the employer in question isn’t a teetotaler."
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PHP vs. .NET: Which Should You Learn?

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about a month ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Both PHP and .NET enjoy broad bases of support. While it's certainly possible to learn the intricacies of both platforms, is there one worth tackling more than the other? That depends on any number of factors, including how much one loves Linux. But should someone relatively new to programming attempt to learn both? In a new Dice article, Jeff Cogswell (a developer and writer that some in the Slashdot community know well, even if they vehemently disagree with him) argues No: "At an early stage in your career, you need to focus your energy on getting very good at one thing, which will translate into higher-paying jobs down the road. If you try to go to broad, you will stretch yourself thin and not master anything." But that's just his opinion, of course. Do you agree? Is it better to focus intensely on a small number (or even one) language or platform, or attempt to become competent at a broader range of things?"
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Why Amazon Might Want a Big Piece of the Smartphone Market

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about a month and a half ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "If rumors prove correct, Amazon will unveil a smartphone at a high-profile June 18 event in Seattle. According to a new article in The New York Times, Amazon’s willing to take such enormous risks because a smartphone will help it sell more products via its gargantuan online store. In theory, a mobile device would allow customers in the midst of their daily routines to order products with a few finger-taps, allowing Amazon to push back against Google and other tech companies exploring similar instant-gratification territory. But a smartphone also plays into Amazon’s plans for the digital world. Over the past several years, the company has become a popular vendor of cloud services and used that base to expand into everything from tablets to a growing mobile-app ecosystem. A smartphone could prove a crucial portal for all those services. If an Amazon smartphone proves a hit, however, it could become a game-changer for mobile developers, opening up a whole new market for apps and services. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has succeeded in the digital space largely by opening up various platforms—whether Kindle self-publishing or the Amazon app store—to third-party wares. It’ll be interesting to see whether he does something similar with the smartphone."
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Bloomberg Testing Productivity App for Oculus Rift

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about a month and a half ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "So far, the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset has found its most widespread use in gaming. But as the device rises in prominence, more companies are testing its capabilities as a work tool. Bloomberg is one of those companies, having designed software that allows Oculus-equipped traders and financial pros to view dozens of virtual “screens,” each one packed with data. The platform is clearly aimed at those Masters of the Universe who stack their real-world desks with four, six or eight screens—the better to take the pulse of the markets. Think of it as a traditional Bloomberg terminal on steroids. “This is a mockup of how virtual reality can be applied in the workplace,” Nick Peck, a Bloomberg employee responsible for creating the software, told Quartz. “I really wanted to explore how virtual reality could solve one of the most basic problems we hear about: limited screen real estate.” A virtual-reality Bloomberg terminal isn’t the only practical application proposed by Oculus Rift users: earlier this year, the Norwegian Armed Services began testing whether the hardware could be used to drive tanks, on the supposition that off-the-shelf cameras and a headset built for virtual gaming could prove cheaper than custom-built military equipment."
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MIT Working on Robotic Limbs That Attach to Shoulders, Waist

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 2 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Following up on news that ActiveLink is building heavy-duty exoskeletons for work in nuclear plants, IEEE Spectrum reports that MIT researchers are experimenting with Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs) that attach to either the shoulder or waist. The SRLs are capable of lifting objects and bracing against solid surfaces. From the article: “The SRL watches what you're doing with your arms to decide how to move. It does that by monitoring two inertial measurement units (IMUs) that the user wears on the wrists. A third IMU sits at the base of the robot’s shoulder mount, to track the overall orientation and motion of the SRL.” In the future, we will all have the ability to become Doctor Octopus (minus two robo-limbs, of course)."
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The Next Unreal Tournament: Totally Free, Developed by Public

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 3 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Epic Games is rebooting Unreal Tournament, but not in a typical way. A small team of veteran developers will begin work on the next edition of the popular, multi-player shooter, in collaboration with pretty much anyone who wants to participate. "From the very first line of code, the very first art created and design decision made, development will happen in the open, as a collaboration between Epic, UT fans and UE4 developers. We’ll be using forums for discussion, and Twitch streams for regular updates," reads a note on the company's blog. All code and content will appear on GitHub, and development will focus on Mac, Linux, and Windows. What's the catch? According to Epic, it'll take months to forge a playable game. "When the game is playable, it will be free. Not free to play, just free," the blog adds. "We’ll eventually create a marketplace where developers, modders, artists and gamers can give away, buy and sell mods and content. Earnings from the marketplace will be split between the mod/content developer, and Epic. That’s how we plan to pay for the game.""
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Job Postings for Python, NoSQL, Apache Hadoop Way Up This Year

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 3 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Dice (yes, parent company, etc.) collects a ton of data from job postings. Its latest findings? The number of jobs posted for NoSQL experts has risen 54 percent year-over-year, ahead of postings for professionals skilled in so-called "Big Data" (up 46 percent), Apache Hadoop (43 percent), and Python (16 percent). Employers are also seeking those with expertise in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms, to the tune of 20 percent more job postings over the past twelve months; in a similar vein, postings for tech professionals with some cloud experience have leapt 27 percent in the same period. Nothing earth-shattering here, but it's perhaps interesting to note that, for all the hype surrounding some of these things, there's actually significant demand behind them."
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Review: 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 3 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "It’s a weird time to be Spider-Man.

Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man,’ which made its debut in 2002, proved (along with Brian Singer’s ‘X-Men,’ released in 2000) that superhero movies could appeal to the mass market, provided they were done right. With or without his Spider-Man mask, Peter Parker (played in Raimi’s movie and its two sequels by Tobey Maguire) made for an appealing presence, earnest and kind-hearted even as he punched and trash-talked villains.

A few years after the debut of ‘Spider-Man,’ Christopher Nolan began his ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, and everything changed for the current iteration of superhero movies. Now Spider-Man’s earnestness seemed a bit passé, overshadowed by Christian Bale-as-Batman’s moral ambiguities and dour growl. With subsequent movies such as ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and the ‘Iron Man’ trilogy, the genre deepened still further, more willing to reflect—as Raimi’s Spider-Man never had—real-world issues such as terrorism, surveillance, and drones.

‘Spider-Man 3’ (2007) tried to get with the times by giving Maguire a black suit (courtesy of an alien symbiote) and a little bit of an attitude, an effort that pretty much everybody seems to view as a failure. As a character, Spider-Man needed to undergo a more careful revision—to become more nuanced and grounded, all without stripping the character of his agreeability. With ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ (2012) and the new ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2,’ director Marc Webb attempts to strike that balance, and for the most part he succeeds. His Spider-Man, as played by Andrew Garfield, comes off as a little more street-savvy and a whole lot less emo than Maguire, even if he does shed tears at key moments.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ features Spider-Man squaring off against Electro (Jamie Foxx) as well as the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and, briefly, the Rhino (Paul Giamatti). If you think that’s too many villains for a feature film, you’re right, although Webb manages to weave them into the plot with a bit more finesse than Raimi shoving a trio of wrongdoers into ‘Spider-Man 3’ (and at least the Green Goblin doesn't look like a Power Ranger this time around). Webb’s other thread is the romance between Parker and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), which benefits from chemistry between the two leads, although it’s ultimately eclipsed by the inevitable explosions, super-fights, and stunts. As Gwen, Stone gets the chance to play a role with a little more dramatic weight than the standard-issue damsel-in-distress, and late in the movie she gives a speech that virtually breaks the fourth wall to call out superhero movies on their tendency to reduce female characters to little more than eye candy... a speech that's interrupted within seconds by yet another super-powered brawl.

Webb tries to give his new movie some additional weight by making time a major theme. Characters mention they’re running out of it; the first shot zooms out from a micro-shot of a wristwatch’s gears; much later, the final battle takes place in a clock tower (and ends on a decidedly pessimistic note). In order to prevent the narrative from tumbling into a dour hole, Webb and Garfield try to give Parker some levity, whether he’s taunting a would-be super-villain with a bullhorn or engaging in a webbing-powered slapstick routine right out of Buster Keaton. “He’s releasing himself into the symbol that he’s created,” Garfield said in an interview. “He’s enjoying the hell out of it while he’s doing it.”

Spider-Man will never be dark like Nolan’s Batman—these movies have an obligation to be colorful and bombastic. But at least this new one gives the web-crawler some shading.

Rating: 8/10"
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Tech People Making $100k a Year on the Rise, Again

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 3 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Last month, a report suggested that Austin has the highest salaries for tech workers (after factoring in the cost of living), followed by Atlanta, Denver, Boston, and Silicon Valley. Now, a new report (yes, from Dice, because it gathers this sort of data from tech workers) suggests that more tech people are earning six figures a year than ever. Some 32 percent of full-time tech pros took home more than $100,000 in 2013, according to the findings, up from 30 percent in 2012 and 26 percent in 2011. For contractors, the data is even better: In 2013, a staggering 54 percent of them earned more than $100,000 a year, up from 51 percent the previous year and 50 percent in 2011. How far that money goes depends on where you live, of course, but it does seem like a growing number of the world's tech workers are earning a significant amount of cash."
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Reinventing the Axe

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 3 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "The axe has been with us for thousands of years, with its design changing very little during that time. After all, how much can you really alter a basic blade-and-handle? Well, Finnish inventor Heikki Karna has tried to change it a whole lot, with a new, oddly-shaped axe that he claims is a whole lot safer because it transfers a percentage of downward force into rotational energy, cutting down on deflections. "The Vipukirves [as the axe is called] still has a sharpened blade at the end, but it has a projection coming off the side that shifts the center of gravity away from the middle. At the point of impact, the edge is driven into the wood and slows down, but the kinetic energy contained in the 1.9 kilogram axe head continues down and to the side (because of the odd center of gravity)," is how Geek.com describes the design. "The rotational energy actually pushes the wood apart like a lever." The question is, will everyone pick up on this new way of doing things?"
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How Nest and FitBit Might Spy on You For Cash

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 3 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Forbes offers up a comforting little story about how Nest and FitBit are planning on turning user data in a multi-billion-dollar business. "Smart-thermostat maker Nest Labs (which is being acquired by Google for $3.2 billion) has quietly built a side business managing the energy consumption of a slice of its customers on behalf of electric companies," reads the article. "In wearables, health tracker Fitbit is selling companies the tracking bracelets and analytics services to better manage their health care budgets, and its rival Jawbone may be preparing to do the same." As many a wit has said over the years: If you're not paying, you're the product. But if Forbes is right, wearable-electronics companies may have discovered a sweeter deal: paying customers on one side, and companies paying for those customers' data on the other. Will most consumers actually care, though?"
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A Bid to Take 3D Printing Mainstream

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Can 3D printing go truly mainstream? Startup M3D is betting on it, having launched a Kickstarter campaign to create what it terms the first truly consumer 3D printer, built around proprietary auto-leveling and auto-calibration technology that (it claims) will allow the device to run in an efficient, easy-to-use way for quite some time. According to The Verge, the device is space-efficient, quiet, and sips power: "One of the main obstacles between 3D printers and consumers has been clunky, unintuitive software. Here too, M3D promises improvements, having designed an app that’s 'as interactive and enjoyable as a game' with a minimalist and touch-friendly interface." Do you think 3D printing can capture a massive audience, or will it remain niche for the foreseeable future?"
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Amazon's Fire TV: Is It Worth Game Developers' Time?

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Amazon is serious about conquering the living room: the online retailer has launched Fire TV, a set-top box that not only allows viewers to stream content, but also play games. That streaming-and-gaming capability makes Amazon a threat to Apple, which rumors suggest is hard at work on an Apple TV capable of doing the same things. In addition, Fire TV puts the screws to other streaming hardware, including Roku and Google’s Chromecast, as well as smaller game consoles such as Ouya (a $99, Android-based device). Much of Amazon’s competitive muscle comes from its willingness to sell hardware for cheap (the Fire TV retails for $99) on the expectation that owners will use it to stream and download digital content from Amazon, including television shows and apps. Those developers who’ve developed Android games have an advantage when it comes to migrating software to Amazon’s new platform. “Porting You Don’t Know Jack was really like developing for Android, with the exception of the store and the new controller library,” Jackbox Games Designer/Director Steve Heinrich told Gamasutra after the Fire TV announcement. “The store itself is the same as the Kindle version, which we’ve used many times now, and the way the controller works is very close to what we did for Ouya.” While Fire TV could represent yet another opportunity for game developers looking to make a buck, it also raises a pressing question: with so many platforms out there (iOS, PC, etc.), how's an indie developer or smaller firm supposed to allocate time and resources to best advantage?"
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For App Developers, It's Time for a Reality Check

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "A new article in the Harvard Business Review does its best to punch a small hole in the startup-hype balloon. “Encouraging kids to blow off schoolwork to write apps, or skip college to become entrepreneurs, is like advising them to take their college money and invest it in PowerBall,” Jerry Davis, Wilbur K. Pierpont professor of management at the Ross School of Business and the editor of Administrative Science Quarterly, wrote in that column. “A few may win big; many or most will end up living with their moms.” Whether or not the unfortunate developer ends up back in the childhood bedroom, it's true that, with millions of apps available across all mobile platforms, it's increasingly difficult for independent developers to stand out. Compounding the problem is the fact that some of the hottest companies out there for developers and programmers Compounding the problem is the fact that some of the hottest companies out there for developers and programmers don’t have nearly enough job openings to absorb the flood of graduates from the world’s universities. So what's a developer to do? Continue to plow forward, with adjusted expectations: the prospect of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg is just too tantalizing for many people to pass up, even if the chances of wild success are smaller than anyone rational would like to admit."
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Did Facebook Buy Oculus to Counter Google Glass?

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "In a statement soon after Facebook announced the acquisition of Oculus Rift, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested that the bulky Oculus headset had the potential to transform VR into the "most social platform ever." Whatever his reasons for shelling out $2 billion for the company, it's clear that Facebook is now a player in the augmented-reality space, which Google is also exploring in its own way. Yes, Google Glass serves a different function—overlaying maps and text over the wearer’s view of the real world, rather than immersing people in a virtual environment—but the potential customer base for both devices is basically the same, and now Google has some real competition if it wants to transform Glass into some sort of gaming device. And despite some blowback from Markus Persson, it's likely that developers will continue to explore Oculus as a gaming platform, Facebook or no. Zuckerberg might be talking a good game about virtual realities far into the future (does he have to pay to promote his own posts on Facebook? Joke.), but this acquisition was likely a short-term play, as well."
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Microsoft's Satya Nadella Prepping for Public Debut

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "When Microsoft appointed Satya Nadella as its new CEO in February, analysts and pundits immediately began to debate over what sort of leader he’ll turn out to be, and whether he’ll attempt to radically remake the company in his own image. Some answers to those questions are expected to emerge this week, when Nadella makes his public debut at a March 27 event in San Francisco. He’ll likely follow that up with an equally high-profile appearance at Microsoft’s BUILD conference next month. It seems likely that Microsoft will use the March 27 event to launch Office for iPad, but other details remain under wraps. What sort of CEO do you think Nadella will be?"
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Google Android Studio vs. Eclipse: Which Fits Your Needs?

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Google’s Android Studio is a development tool for Android based on the IntelliJ IDEA platform, one that managed to attract a lot of hype when it rolled out in mid-2013. Roughly a year later, the platform is still in “early access preview,” and work on it is ongoing. Eclipse, on the other hand, is the granddaddy of IDEs; although it doesn’t offer native Android support, it does have some nice tools to help you build Android applications—one such tool is the Google Plugin for Eclipse, made by Google. Developer and editor Jeff Cogswell compares Eclipse and its Google-made Google Plugin with Google’s own Android Studio, developed with the help of the people who make IntelliJ IDEA. His verdict? Eclipse is beginning to show its age, especially when it comes to Android development, while Android Studio offers some noted benefits. "Android Studio is still in preview mode, without an official release, even if that preview is in pretty fine shape—its status certainly shouldn’t prevent you from using it, at least in my opinion," he writes. Do you agree?"
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Lit Motors, Danny Kim, and Changing How Americans Drive

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "In early March, Lit Motors founder Danny Kim hit the road to meet investors. The Portland native needed to keep the momentum growing for his small firm, which builds the two-wheeled C-1. His modest lab, located in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, could accommodate another 12 employees—but he needed the money to fund them, and to build a manufacturing facility that could turn his prototype ideas into a reality. Like Elon Musk and other manufacturing savants, Kim is someone who enjoys the challenge of building things—whether it’s eyeglasses, chairs, or motor vehicles from scratch. He’s spent the past five years re-thinking modern transportation, and using those insights to design prototypes of two-wheeled, motor-driven vehicles that can self-balance with a dancer’s grace, thanks to an integrated software platform and a patented gyroscopic system. In a wide-ranging conversation with Slashdot, Kim discussed his plans for manufacturing the C-1, as well as the challenges in convincing consumers to try out a new kind of vehicle. "Seventy-two percent of commuters drive alone, so it just made sense to cut the car in half," he said, explaining the decision to go with two wheels instead of four. "You have to think about this two-wheeled car as a robot because of its stability. It purely uses our AI/stability algorithm so it can balance and you don’t have to. We had to develop our own firmware for our own dynamic system. It is code heavy.""
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Microsoft Dumping License Fees for Windows Phone?

Nerval's Lobster Nerval's Lobster writes  |  about 4 months ago

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "For years, Microsoft remained adamant about its licensing fees for Windows Phone: if a smartphone manufacturer wanted to include the software on its devices, it would need to pay Microsoft a certain amount per unit. That was a logical strategy for Microsoft, which became a very big company thanks to licensing fees for Windows and other platforms. Unlike some of those other products, however, Windows Phone has struggled for adoption in its marketplace, which is dominated by Apple and Google. In response, suggests the Times of India, Microsoft may have dumped licensing fees for two Indian smartphone makers, Karbonn and Lava (Xolo). Microsoft’s biggest rival, Google, gives its Android mobile operating system away for free, a maneuver that helped it gain spectacular market-share in a relatively short amount of time. If Microsoft pursues a similar strategy in different markets, it could encourage more smartphone manufacturers to produce Windows Phone devices, which could increase the platform’s market-share—but there are no guarantees that scenario will actually play out. The smartphone market is increasingly saturated, and Microsoft’s opponents have no intention of allowing Windows Phone to gain any ground."
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