Why Is Science Behind a Paywall?
I'm systems librarian at an academic library, and at most places you can get full access if you can use a computer on the university campus. The publishers grant access based on IP ranges, and it only make sense to give them the whole campus range so that faculty can use the databases from their offices. So if you can use a campus computer, you can get the library's digital holdings.
At my own library, we have a policy of allowing unlimited guest access for library research. If you walk up to the reference desk and say "I'm conducting research on Topic X and I need to use Database Y," we'll happily issue you a guest account for the campus network. The guest account lasts a week, but we'll renew it as long as you're still doing research.
The harder part is off-campus access. Our guest accounts won't work for logging in from off campus, due to ITS policy. Also, our contracts with the publisher place pretty severe restrictions on who is allowed off-campus access. We can't even give it to our alumni. Not even if they offer to pay a fee. It annoys the heck out of me.
The whole current academic publishing model is lousy for everyone but the publishers. Access is limited, the licensing is expensive and prices go up every freaking year. Meanwhile library budgets aren't even close to keeping pace. It's pretty common to have to cut something in order to retain access to something else. Makes me long for the days when we just bought physical books and journals -- you pay for them once, and then you have them. This paying year-after-year-after-year thing is for the birds.
Dungeons & Dragons Next Playtest Released
Do you work for Paizo or something?
No, I don't work for Paizo; just a fan. For my day job, I'm a librarian in North Dakota.
They took the 3.5 rules and reprinted and sold them with very minor adjustments.
The changes to the rule set are rather more extensive than you suggest, though I'll grant that it's hard to see the overall effect because many of the changes are quite minor individually. Taken as a whole, though, the system is a lot smoother.
The biggest difference in terms of mechanics is the shift in emphasis towards modularity instead of multi-classing. In 3.5 if you have a character concept that doesn't fit easily into a pre-existing class, you have to do some crazy multi-classing to get it worked in. Paizo's "archetypes" approach makes that kind of thing a lot easier, because it lets you swap out class features in a standard base class in order to get something different. Not more -- just different. I used to spend ages working out how to qualify for weird prestige classes in order to get a character which matched the picture in my head reasonably well. Now I apply an archetype to one of the base classes, and never bother taking any other class. It's great.
The rules have to be open as far as I am aware because WotC unusually made the Open Game Licence where they open sourced their base rules, and so derivative works need to follow suit.
I'd point out that Paizo has continued putting the OGL on all their new stuff, too. It applies to all of their hardcovers (though large parts of the campaign setting book are exempt), and to portions of the adventure paths as well. For example, take a look at the Sanguine Ooze Swarm. It's a monster whose stats never appeared in any of the books; it put in an appearance in "The Haunting of Harrowstone", but it's under OGL, so it's up for free.
... [my group doesn't] see the point in Pathinder, as they have all the 3.5 books, so why rebuy them with another company?
That's exactly my point. They don't have to buy the books; the mechanics are all there online, free for use. Bring a laptop -- or better yet a tablet -- and you've got the entire rule set right there ready for use.
... Paizo SHOULD put more work in to their adventures, as they already put minimal work in to the ruleset and made a bunch of cash from it.
Dude, they put out a new adventure every month, like clockwork, as part of their Adventure Paths. Each adventure path comes out once per month for six months, then they start a new one. There are 9 finished adventure paths to date (54 total adventures), and they're two books into the tenth. The adventures themselves run 64 pages, but the actual publication generally clocks in about 92-100 pages overall once you add in new monsters, articles giving background information on the adventure setting, the monthly fiction, and the rather nice artwork. And that total doesn't even count the other adventures in their "modules" series, which are stand-alone adventures rather than part of a larger story arc. There are 50 of those so far.
Like I said -- they make their money mostly off the adventures. They're happy if you buy the books, of course, but what they REALLY want you to do is sign up for a monthly subscription to their adventure paths. That's where they make their real money. If you want a home brew game, or whatever, then you never have to pay them a dime.
Dungeons & Dragons Next Playtest Released
The big problem with Wizards of the Coast is that it's being run by marketing specialists who don't game. They're hugely out of touch with their target market, and the result has been a crappy product that few people want to buy.
Meanwhile, Paizo -- the company that makes Pathfinder -- has taken the pulse of the d20 gaming community. The company is run by gaming geeks. Virtually everyone there plays for fun, even the CEO. Paizo makes most of its money off adventures, not rules -- their subscription-based monthly adventure modules are their primary revenue stream. All of the actual rule mechanics are available free online under an open license, and if you want pretty illustrations to go with them, the PDFs are reasonably cheap.
At Paizo, the adventure comes first, and the rules are just a framework. WotC puts the rules first, and the adventure second. Even this WotC play test strikes me mostly as the WotC marketing droids aping Paizo. Which just demonstrates their cluelessness even further.
Ask Slashdot: Good, Forgotten Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels?
Nuts, forgot one.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. 1881. A sweet fairy story -- MacDonald and Dunsany were contemporaries, I think.
Ask Slashdot: Good, Forgotten Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels?
The Description of a New World, Called The Burning-World by Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. Late 1500s. Very strange early SF, semi-autobiographical. Requires tolerance for Elizabethan English, though it's easier than Shakespeare since it's prose not poetry. Author also composed poems about pixies responsible for moving atoms around.
The Three Impostor: and Other Stories, by Arthur Machen. Very Lovecraftian, except that it predates Lovecraft.
Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling. Not read as much as his other stories these days; basically a tour of English/European history from a decidedly British perspective, courtesy of tour guide Puck.
The Days of Chivalry,or, The Legend of Croque-Mitaine; original in French by Ernest Louis Victor Jules L'Epine; free (VERY free) translation by Thomas Hood the Younger, late 1890s. 177 illustrations by Gustave Doré. Originally a children's book, this heavily allegorical book follows the adventures of Mitaine, female squire to the legendary French knight Sir Roland. Would never hand this to a child now. Illustrations of impalements. Thoroughly racist, sexist, and every other kind of -ist you can think of. Shows illustration of Mohammed getting his teeth punched out by Roland (!!). Despite all that, fun in a horrifying kind of way. Reading this helped me understand how World War I came about. If this is the kind of thing they were raising their kids on, no wonder they killed millions of each other.
A Gift Upon the Shore by M. K. Wren -- two women struggle to preserve knowledge in post-apocalyptic Oregon. SF only by membership in post-apocalyptic sub-genre, but beautifully written.
Interesting question. Will keep eye on discussion. Note to self: must take refresher course on personal pronouns.
Is the Government Scaring Web Businesses Out of the US?
Try Gandi. Their contract is written for clarity, and specifies in bold text on page 2 that "You are the owner of your domain name." The phrase "sole discretion" does not appear anywhere in the document. Do note that they sometimes add some terms and conditions specific to the type of extension you register (e.g. .com, .org, etc), so you'll want to double check those.
Their prices are middling; not the cheapest but not very pricey either. I've found the service excellent in the ten years I've been using them, and I've never once come across any kind of shenanigans story about them.
They're based in France, so any political crap which affects their service is likely to be French or EU based. And frankly, both France and the EU generally have saner laws than the U.S. when it comes to Internet stuff. (Generally! Not always.)
5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons Announced
Take a look at the Pathfinder Society. It's *mostly* focused on the US, but there are games in other countries.
Other than that, try looking in gaming forums. I'm partial to the Pathfinder stuff, and they have very active forums where you can likely find a game in your area.
Last but not least, you could bite the bullet, become a GM, and recruit some players. There are even "beginners box" type products for exactly this situation. Then you'd have a game.
Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Way To Deal With Roving TSA Teams?
No. You're not like "the majority of the population": you have a problem with authority, while most people don't.
The original poster is correct. The majority of the population is very likely to go along with the demands of someone perceived to be in authority. As evidence, I direct your attention to the Milgram Experiments, in which random guys from off the street were asked to administer electrical shocks to total strangers, starting at five volts and going all the way to 450 volts in small increments. The subjects of the experiment believed that the shocks were part of an experiment designed to test the effects of punishment on memory, when in fact the person supposedly receiving the shocks was an actor. And here are the results:
Well, how many people would go all the way to 450 volts in that situation?
Milgram asked 39 psychiatrists and they all said NO ONE would. If you ask ordinary
people the same question, they say only a pathological fringe element, perhaps one or
two percent of the population, would go all the way. Certainly people know they
themselves WOULD NOT, COULD NOT, EVER, NEVER do such a thing. So if you
know that you would not, could not, that’s what almost everyone says.
Milgram ran 40 men, one at a time, in the situation I just described. All 40
shocked the Learner after he started grunting; all 40 gave the “household voltage” 120
volt shock. Thirty-four went past the 150 volt mark where the Learner demanded to
be set free, which means 85% of the Teachers paid less attention to the Learner’s
undeniable rights than they did to the Experimenter’s insistence that the study
continue. Thereafter a few more people dropped out, one here and one there.
Altogether fifteen men got up the gumption to eventually tell the Experimenter, “No,
I won’t.” But the other twenty-five men went to 450 volts and threw the switch over
and over until the Experimenter told them to stop.
That’s not NONE of them. That’s 62%.
(Writeup by Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, pages 225-226)
This and similar experiments have shown repeatedly that resistance to authority is the exception, not the rule. The TSA counts on that.
Jobs Wanted To Destroy Android
... as a geek (the management kind), he lacks the upper body strength to shift that sucker.
Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Old Webcams?
They're not yours; they belong to the district. Get permission first. I'm sure your school district has policies about disposing of old surplus equipment (if nobody else in the district wants them). Disposing of district equipment WITHOUT permission is just asking for trouble.
I say (N. Hemisphere) Fall starts ...
Here in North Dakota, we only have three seasons:
Winter lasts 7-8 months, of course. Flood and Construction can overlap. If there's no snow on the ground, much of the state feels a deep sense of uneasiness arising from chronological uncertainty.
China Cracks Down On Fake Apple Stores
About time they shut those joints down. Last time I was in Beijing I stopped by an apple store to get lunch, but when I bit into it -- wax!
NH Man Arrested For Videotaping Police.. Again
... we'll have sufficient bandwidth that video shot from a mobile device can be uploaded straight to the web, with only a brief "buffering" stop on the actual filming device. Then they can confiscate the device as much as they like, but the video will be beyond their grasp due to the technical difficulty of 1) figuring out where it went, 2) getting the host to take it down, and 3) doing so before the original filmer (or friends) can spread copies of it all over everywhere.
Shortly after that, some bright lad will suggest jamming devices to disrupt the transmission, which will pose all kinds of problems for them, such as disrupting their own signals. So then they may try short range hand-held EMP devices, which will work great right up until they fry somebody's pacemaker. Meanwhile, people will busily be miniaturizing the technology even further, so that observers could be filming the cops' activity without any obvious sign of it.
And eventually they'll give up and conclude that they'll just have to put up with being filmed by whoever happens to be standing around.
Copyright Law Is Killing Science
What should simply happen is that universities should publish their own journals, online, using the simple, cheap web distribution methods.
Interestingly The University of Michigan is doing exactly that. They combined their university press with their library, and shifted the press focus to digital instead of print. As their site says, "The press mission is to use the best emerging digital technology to disseminate such information as freely and widely as possible while preserving the integrity of published scholarship." They also do some print-on-demand stuff for people who want paper copies.
I hope to see this approach adopted by a great many more universities. It cuts profiteering parasitic publishers out of the loop, and simultaneously reinvigorates the university library by expanding its mission to include publication and dissemination of new research in addition to the more traditional roles of archiving existing materials.
Every day, as I search for papers to research, I encounter pay-walls asking for $30, $40, $50 for a single paper.
If you haven't already, check your university library's holdings for those. They have likely already paid a great deal of money to crappy parasitic publishers for access to databases full of journals, and you have to check through the library web site. Your library's holdings usually won't show up in Google results, again because the crappy parasitic publishers don't let Google index the library's licensed databases. Pro tip: look for a "journal title" search or something similar, and search for the title of the publication first, then narrow down to the specific issue/volume containing the article you want.
Federal Judge Rejects Google Books Deal
Gimme a break; I was twelve, and had not yet heard of open standards. I just used the software that came on the computer. Now I'm a web services librarian. I write software too, and I sing the open standards gospel daily.
ASCII is great, though I'd actually prefer UTF, thank you, on the grounds that diacritics actually do matter, not to mention the ability to encode things in Cyrillic, Korean, or Scandinavian runes. Though even UTF has its limits. Let me know when you work out a way to store NTSC format video encoded in some damn proprietary codec as text, okay? Or, for that matter, video games, which are literary and artistic works worthy of preservation.
The simple fact is, computers are inherently more complex than older information storage methods. The information they store cannot be read directly by a human. Unless you can hold a hard drive to your head and sense the magnetic charges directly, the information must be interpreted by software first. That simple, undeniable requirement adds several layers of complexity to any attempt at long-term preservation of digital data. For ample demonstration, just go read Keeping Stuff, a delightful essay by a comp sci professor at Grinnell in which he discusses his attempts to preserve his own undergraduate work from the early '70s.
Oh, and you can wag your finger at me some more as soon as you've worked out an open standards solution to the fact that basically every non-geek does all their work in proprietary programs that spit out crappy proprietary files, and then expect them to last forever.
Federal Judge Rejects Google Books Deal
As a librarian, this makes my head hurt.
I guarantee you, those books are sitting on a shelf in a library someplace. Probably within a thousand miles of you. And we have this lovely thing called "interlibrary loan," an arrangement under which you can walk into your local library and borrow those books from the library that has them, either for free or for a small processing fee, depending on how badly the library's budget has fared in recent cuts. We saved those books for you. That's what we do. Please come borrow them.
As for the future, well, digital copies are actually a LOT harder to preserve long term. I myself have files that I can no longer open, because I no longer have a copy of the word processor "Sprint" running on MS-DOS 5.0. They're less than twenty years old, and are essentially unusable.
By contrast, I once held and read a hand-written breviary from fourteenth century Italy, a good six and half centuries old and still usable. If we could find a way to archive digital information which would guarantee its usability a mere century from now, I'd rest a lot more easily.
How Much Math Do We Really Need?
People with a strong math education understand logical argument, whether it be in symbols and numbers, or in words. The emotional, rhetoric-laden argument style that humanities teaches doesn't hold water in the legal profession, because judges are usually very sharp and aren't going to fall for that shit.
And yet, consider what Lawrence Lessig wrote about why he failed to persuade the Supreme Court to limit the 1998 extension of copyright terms (Free Culture, pgs. 244-45, emphasis added):
Most lawyers, and most law professors, have little patience for idealism about courts in general and this Supreme Court in particular. Most have a much more pragmatic view. When Don Ayer said that this case would be won based on whether I could convince the Justices that the framers’ values were important, I fought the idea, because I didn’t want to believe that that is how this Court decides. I insisted on arguing this case as if it were a simple application of a set of principles. I had an argument that followed in logic. I didn’t need to waste my time showing it should also follow in popularity.
As I read back over the transcript from that argument in October, I can see a hundred places where the answers could have taken the conversation in different directions, where the truth about the harm that this unchecked power will cause could have been made clear to this Court. Justice Kennedy in good faith wanted to be shown. I, idiotically, corrected his question. Justice Souter in good faith wanted to be shown the First Amendment harms. I, like a math teacher, reframed the question to make the logical point. I had shown them how they could strike this law of Congress if they wanted to. There were a hundred places where I could have helped them want to, yet my stubbornness, my refusal to give in, stopped me. I have stood before hundreds of audiences trying to persuade; I have used passion in that effort to persuade; but I refused to stand before this audience and try to persuade with the passion I had used elsewhere. It was not the basis on which a court should decide the issue.
Would it have been different if I had argued it differently? Would it have been different if Don Ayer had argued it? Or Charles Fried? Or Kathleen Sullivan?
My friends huddled around me to insist it would not. The Court was not ready, my friends insisted. This was a loss that was destined. It would take a great deal more to show our society why our framers were right. And when we do that, we will be able to show that Court.
Maybe, but I doubt it. These Justices have no financial interest in doing anything except the right thing.They are not lobbied.They have little reason to resist doing right. I can’t help but think that if I had stepped down from this pretty picture of dispassionate justice, I could have persuaded.
The Supreme Court that Lessig addressed was composed of some of the most highly trained, best respected legal minds in the world. And they could not, and did not dispute the logic of his argument. As Lessig wrote, "It had never even occurred to me that they could reconcile [the Commerce Clause and the Progress Clause] simply by not addressing the argument." (242, emphasis in original) Lessig failed to give the issue a human face: an emotionally real story demonstrating the harms done by the retroactive extension of copyright terms. And because the Justices could not see -- could not feel -- that harms were being done, they ignored his argument and denied his requests.
Geeks worship at the altar of logic. It is a foundational assumption of our sub-culture that reason, based on sound evidence, is the best way to make decisions. But, as Lessig found out, reason is not the only way to make decisions. I would venture to assert that reason is not even the most common way that humans make decisions. On balance, we are creatures of emotion first, and of reason only second.
Bear Lessig's experience in mind the next time you denigrate the "emotional, rhetoric-laden argument style that humanities teaches". Rhetoric is about persuading your audience. If logic alone works, great! But if logic fails in the face of blinkered ideology, or incomprehension, or sheer human cussedness, do not be too proud to present an argument founded more on emotion than on evidence.
Seattle Hacker Catches Cops Who Hid Arrest Tapes
Although they said "the recordings ... can no longer be obtained", they later sent him copies of the recordings. Sooo ... how did they send him copies without "obtaining" them? Could it be that they were capable of obtaining the tapes and lied about it because they didn't want to?
Also note that he requested the tapes both during the disclosure proceedings in court and after the charges were dismissed through freedom of information laws. In both cases, they were legally obligated to provide the information if they were capable of doing so.
The response was carefully worded, yes; but phrasing it in the passive voice is not going to get them off the hook this time.
Seattle Hacker Catches Cops Who Hid Arrest Tapes
I lived in Britain for two years (I'm American) and never carried my passport except when I was actively traveling across national boundaries.
In fact, I think it would be pretty dumb to carry your passport around when you're not actually using it -- it would be much, much easier to lose it that way. Or have it stolen. I'd much rather carry my American driver's license and have to explain that my passport is stored at my current residence for security's sake.
You might claim that Britain is a "safe" country and that it would be wise to carry your passport in countries with more crime and/or governmental corruption. I don't know whether that's the case or not. If there's more crime, I might want to leave it in my hotel even more, because there's a greater possibility of theft. And if there's all THAT much governmental corruption, I might be afraid that the cops themselves would steal it, sell it on the black market, and then claim I was in the country illegally. It's hard to say.
If I was really worried about it, though, I'd contact the American Embassy (or whatever embassy is appropriate to your own nationality, gentle reader) and ask whether they think I should carry it all the time or not. They know the local laws and law enforcement far better than I could hope to, and would likely get involved if I were arrested for anything.
What To Cover In a Short "DIY Tech" Course?
There is sooooo much DYI tech ..
Hmm, DYI. That stands for "Do Yourself In" ... ?