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Developer Seeks FDA Approval For Therapeutic Game

SpaceToast Weakly Hopeful (48 comments)

In theory, this isn't actually that out-there as an addition to a treatment regimen, although the trial should be an order of magnitude larger to produce meaningful data. What we'd hope for is a means of giving the patient a quantifiable, self-directed method of practicing certain aspects of his or her cognitive behavioral therapy -- there's a lot more to therapy than what takes place at the therapist's office. The danger comes from a product that allows the patient to learn to beat the game, rather than improving his or her skills in the real world. (This is where so-called "brain training" games for general entertainment have failed: Play memory cards for a few hours a day, and you'll get very good at turning over memory cards. You still won't be able to find your keys in the morning though.)

Schizophrenia basically means that a person has difficulty assigning priority to ideas. The toast you actually just put in the toaster has no more significance than the goofy idea that just popped into your head about your ex. Sounds reasonable until you consider thinking that way nearly all the time, and actually trying to get anything done. Add a dash of natural human paranoia, and it can cause some serious harm.

We'll hope for the best, but I still prefer to see any new treatment given the level of scrutiny we instinctively give to a new (molecular) medication.

more than 3 years ago

Robert Bunsen, Open Source Pioneer?

SpaceToast The Davy Lamp (1815) (127 comments)

After a series of deadly methane explosions in British coal mines, Sir Humphrey Davy (1778-1829) invented an oil lamp with a metal mesh-encased wick, which became known as the Davy lamp. He released it without patent, and the design quickly spread. Humphrey determined through experimentation that methane only exploded at a certain mixture with oxygen, at a certain (high) temperature. The metal mesh dissipated the heat of the wick below the ignition point, which alerting the miners to the presence of methane ("fire damp") by burning at a different color. It was considered an early triumph of the application of the scientific method to a critical public need.

For a fascinating read on the era, I can't recommend Richard Holmes' recent book The Age of Wonder highly enough.

more than 3 years ago

Finding Independently Produced TV Shows?

SpaceToast Re:Look at it from the other side. (151 comments)

Thanks for shedding some light on that, Tim. Would I be wrong in thinking that the largest barrier is the upfront cost -- and thus risk, if the series isn't picked up -- to the producers? How would the cost of a speculative hour long series pilot compare to, say, a spy show? (Assuming of course that more than half of the speculative show can be filmed on the same sets Firefly/Trek style, and that the spy show will still have to invest in at least one Bookend HQ set itself.)

more than 4 years ago

When Computers Go Wrong

SpaceToast Gas Pipe Piracey Apocryphal? (250 comments)

The Gas Pipe Piracy subheading appears to refer to the 1982 Siberian pipeline sabotage incident. This is something I've been meaning to do a bit of research on. Yes, every bad or even mixed story in the U.S.S.R. was hushed up as best it could be by the Soviets -- witness C.J. Chivers' recent problems tracing the history of the AK-47 in The Gun -- but did the incident actually happen?

I've seen it reported as the largest non-nuclear manmade explosion in history, but every source is weak and third-hand. Obviously the CIA's and NSA's files from the time would still be classified. It seems like the best way to establish the veracity of the incident would be by speaking to senior physicians in the surrounding cities. The casualties from the event -- if it did occur -- would have been extremely high. Burst eardrums alone would have radiated for miles.

Has anyone come upon a strong source for this story, or does it remain somewhere between Soviet coverup and CIA blowback?

more than 4 years ago

Thought-Provoking Gifts For Young Kids?

SpaceToast Books... But No More Contrux!? (458 comments)

I'm rather sad. My childhood essentially WAS Legos and Contrux. Contrux were a beams-and-collars style snap-together assembly toy. Most pieces were a couple of inches long. You could build BIG. There were wheels, pulleys -- making things move was easy. According to Wikipedia: "Construx was discontinued in 1988, briefly revived by Mattel in 1997, and then discontinued again."

At any rate, I'm in the book trade, so here are a few thoughts:

  • Actual Size (3-5) A great little picture book of animals depicted at, you guessed it, actual size.
  • Of Thee I Sing (4-6) Politics aside, a look at figures from American history as, interestingly, people whose acheivements kids may aspire to build on.
  • The My Father's Dragon trilogy (6-7) Your first great chapter book, and your first introduction to a problem-solving hero.
  • The Ivy and Bean series (6-8) Smart, loveable girl-positive books. You'll laugh as hard as the kids.
  • Built to Last (9-12) A mind-blowing omnibus of David MacAulay's Castle, Cathedral and Mosque.
  • The New Way Things Work (9-12) Expanded since my time, and even better.
  • The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes (9-12) Smart, positive and a little dangerous -- everything a good adventure should be.
  • The Harry Potter Series (10-) On second blush, an impressively smart fantasy/mystery series that rewards kids' close reading.

more than 4 years ago

Collage, and the Challenge of "Deniability"

SpaceToast Not Suggesting Impropriety (94 comments)

It strikes me that Gmail over https is actually a worse solution than steganography when deniability is the goal. Deniability doesn't simply mean making it impossible to read a hidden message; it also means hiding a message in a way that doesn't look like one is hiding anything. TOR, Freenet and proxy servers have the same problem. Collage seems to be a slightly Rube-Goldbergian but never the less right headed solution. How does a dissident exchange messages without appearing to do anything sneaky or out of the ordinary on the internet? I wonder if there's a means of hiding messages in the ordinary bandwidth chatter of AJAX pages.

more than 4 years ago

What To Do About CC License Violations?

SpaceToast Re:From Boing Boing (437 comments)

I had to reread the gloss a few times. On closer examination, the poster is not actually claiming to be the rightsholder of the images used on BoingBoing or Wired, but makes a logical leap in assuming that both are used without permission, and then inserts these assertions as concrete examples. Pretty sneaky, sis.

Bottom line, I think it's pretty safe to assume that the anonymous poster isn't giving any personal examples because -- if they exist -- they just wouldn't hold up to scrutiny.

more than 4 years ago

Why Designers Hate Crowdsourcing

SpaceToast Re:GIANTS TALK LIKE THIS (569 comments)

Threadless steals designs, and launders that theft through middlemen. Likewise for all of the "crowdsourced" tee shirt firms. (I've had a webcomic punchline stolen by Gawker myself.)

And that's the appeal of crowdsourcing. If a capitalized firm were thinly ripping off designs using pirated software they'd be sued out of existence the minute someone blew the whistle. With a million unknown players darting in only to feed there's no danger. (And don't give me this horsepaddy about all art being ripped off -- you'd know the difference if we were talking about code.)

Crowdsourcing is a cheap shortcut of a business model. The only real way to prevent yourself from being ripped off by a vendor is to carefully establish earned-reputation relationships.

more than 4 years ago

India's New Rupee Symbol Won't Show On Computers

SpaceToast Re:Its nice to see (252 comments)

Specifically, it's a Devanagari R with a horizontal line through the top, similar to the €, £ and ¥ signs. Usefully for most European language readers, in most fonts (and when not part of a conjunct character) it does look similar to a Latin R missing it's vertical stroke. Pronunciation is a soft R, similar to French.

What? Hindi is a fun language to learn.

more than 4 years ago

Buy Your Own Tron Lightcycle For $35,000

SpaceToast I'm willing to be even more pedantic (170 comments)

Tron did indeed showcase "the kinds of computer-generated special effects that later become commonplace," but in a sense the light cycles did not. As sequence designer Ken Perlin, now of NYU, has remarked, after Tron polygon-based 3d graphics became the new hotness, with the light cycle sequence as its acme. The trouble was, they didn't use polygons. The light cycles were actually constructed out of volumetric primitives using boolean operations (AND, OR, NOT). True curves like NURBs and Hash patches wouldn't have really been practical on the systems they were working with. (Nor had they -- you know -- been invented yet.) Most of what you seen on movie screens to this day are approximated hollow polygon shells that immitate curved solids. CAD makes common use of boolean primitives, but the light cycle sequence was less the ancestor of modern film CGI than an all but extinct evolutionary branch. Tron was the Burgess Shale of computer animation.

more than 4 years ago

Why Wikipedia Articles Vary So Much In Quality

SpaceToast Re:Quality (160 comments)

Science articles are often quite good, but mathematics articles are terrible. They read like pages from graduate textbooks. There is of course nothing wrong with advanced or highly technical information on a topic, but in order to be "encyclopedic" an article needs to first describe a concept in layman's terms. (Economics articles have similar problems, but I've seen less push-back when making readability edits on those.) A basic mathematical concept like rotation describes two-dimensional rotation in matrix algebra, and then for complex numbers. If the average college graduate can't get through the first section of an article, it needs work. If I add a section on the basic geometric formula for rotating a point around the axis, do you think it will survive?

more than 4 years ago

Technical Objections To the Ogg Container Format

SpaceToast Re:Not a selling point (370 comments)

Speaking as a web designer though, PNG transparency wasn't supported in IE until version 7. On my own site, I had to load a basic stylesheet with .jpg backgrounds and a more limited layout, then a second stylesheet with .png graphics for advanced browsers. The various workarounds would often result in scary errors for the end user. (This page wants to use an ActiveX filter!) But then, IE has always been the web's David Spade.

Now that Google is officially dropping IE6 support, maybe it's time I did too. Trouble is, my ideal design would be built on SVG -- which the newer versions of IE... also don't support either.

more than 4 years ago

Claims of Himalayan Glacier Disaster Melt Away

SpaceToast Just a thought experiment (561 comments)

This is for the Libertarians who make up such a substantial portion of both Slashdot readers and climate change denialist/skeptics.

Just assuming for a moment that the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change is correct, how could Libertarianism -- as a philosophy -- actually deal with the problem? Likewise, how would a theoretical Libertarian government have dealt differently with issues of DDT, dioxins and CFCs? Obviously I am posing a leading question, but the best answers I've been able to find amount to a lukewarm defense of cap and trade schemes (treating the right to pollute as a tradeable form of "property").

about 5 years ago

An Artist's View of the Modern Music Biz

SpaceToast No Paid Downloads? (210 comments)

The article bemoans the death of CD sales, and makes some decent points, but it's got a weird blind spot around paid digital downloads. Isn't iTunes the largest music retailer in the US now? Am I the last person who's happy to pay for music in a format, and with a level of convenience, that I like? I haven't bought a new CD in years, but between iTunes and Amazon MP3, I've got vastly more at my fingertips than any CD store ever sold.

Lets check some Created On dates, and see what I've spent money on in the past year...

  • Benny Goodman
  • Bruderschaft
  • Massive Attack
  • Theatre of Tragedy
  • Underworld
  • Foo Fighters
  • Billy Joel
  • Freezepop
  • The Silent Hill IV soundtrack

I'm not even a big music buff. What about paid digital downloads?

about 5 years ago

China Luring Scientists Back Home

SpaceToast Re:We are asking the same in India (292 comments)

India tried a similar scheme recently, which unravelled rather spectacularly.

American-trained scientists simply expect a greater degree of autonomy than more traditional cultures expect of them. Overturning the work of an established scientist is how one makes a career in the U.S. In India, this can be a career-ending move.

Is China, a philosophically Confucian Communist culture with an even stronger concept of "face" than India, going to be more or less successful at this scheme? I have my doubts.

about 5 years ago

Facebook Photos Lead To Cancellation of Quebec Woman's Insurance

SpaceToast Ask Someone With Depression (645 comments)

I've been going to Depression/Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) meetings for over a year now, in Los Angeles and Maine. (Think of a support group, then subtract the woo, jargon, god and other b.s.) I have my own experience with depression, and I know people who've had it far worse.

According to the article, Blanchard is diagnosed with major depression. A running joke in DBSA groups is that you can tell the new people with depression from those with bipolar because they crack the most jokes. Without the high and low cycles of bipolar, we tend to grasp at any moment of levity we can attain or create. There's a common misconception that depression is a flat, constant low mood. This is rare. Typically one varies between extreme lows and more functional periods, with stops everywhere in between. One also gets very good at faking it for short periods of time.

Meds aren't a magic bullet either, more a set of blunt tools whose effect on any given person will be highly variable. Beginning treatment often means a period of medication roulette, where the prescriber and patient work to balance efficacy, side-effects and (in the U.S. at least) costs. In the long term, lifestyle adjustments, especially increased social involvement, are essential.

The bottom line is, if Blanchard wants to return to the working world, she's been doing exactly what she should be.

Manulife, on the other hand, took a very small risk, which makes perfect market sense. The chances of Blanchard fighting back the way she has were slim, and the financial savings for the company miniscule but real. Faced with the loss of their emergency income, many people with major depression would have retreated further into their shells. Some might have attempted suicide.

more than 5 years ago

Mark Cuban's Plan To Kill Google

SpaceToast Analyzing the Top 50 Sites as a Sample (773 comments)

Let's just look at the top 50 sites to get an idea of the feasibility of this plan, as reported by Alexa.

First, we filter out all of the Google properties. By my count, that leaves 30.

Next, filter out Microsoft's properties, as the scheme would put theme in the antitrust crosshairs: That leaves 26.

Forget Yahoo; they make a lot more than $1MM annually from Google. We're down to 22.

What's left? Forget LinkedIn -- search results are their bread-and-butter. Likewise the IMDb, Craigslist, Twitter, eBay and Myspace. Wikipedia and the BBC would consider it a breach of their charters. Facebook might be tempted, but their users would protest too much. Only 13 out of 50 remain. Of these, which would play ball? RapidShare would -- they're rather be ignored by search traffic. The Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Turkish social networking sites might. Likewise the porn sites. In truth though, we have only five or six "maybes" in the top 50.

Bottom line, it's an absurd notion -- more old media fantasies of crippling the internet with blunt 19th century methods. I'm not saying that Google is unassailable, but a challenge by a competitor who hasn't put in the sweat-equity is a guaranteed to failure.

more than 5 years ago

10/GUI — an Interface For Multi-Touch Input

SpaceToast An incremental hardware update putting on airs (344 comments)

I blogged this last night. Short version: fail.


1. You just doubled the amount of space I need between myself and the monitor.

2. Multitouch allows for more kinds of interaction: true! However, this interface steals ALL of them away from use by the applications.

3. Left and right sides of the screen aren't discoverable. Might as well be top and bottom -- i.e. bottom of the screen for application launching (call it a "dock") and top of the screen for context-specific options (a sort of "bar" of "menus").

4. Linear spatial overload of windows is no better than two-dimensional spatial overload of windows. Labelled zoom-all-the-way-out cheat no better than Expose and application switcher.

5. Where does file management fit into this scheme?

Lukas Mathis calls 10/GUI "one of the most dramatic reimaginations of the desktop user interface I've seen in a long time" but on examination it's an incremental hardware update with no real interface breakthroughs. Keyboard + mouse has gone on for far too long, as has the W.I.M.P. interface. A better direction would be a tactile multitouch surface which can be anything it needs to be, including a keyboard (for any language), coupled with a GUI that represents tasks and actors rather than objects in a space. 10/GUI does nothing about window and document clutter, squinting, scanning large lists, or making the computer's workings and status an organic part of its presentation. The video may be a slick investors' reel, but shows no real progress.

more than 5 years ago

Do Retailers Often Screen User Reviews?

SpaceToast Wirefly (454 comments)

I suspect that this is more widespread than we'd all like to believe. I tried several times to post a negative (2 out of 5 star, short, clear and to the point) review of a Sony w580i phone I bought through Wirefly.com, and the review never seemed to go through. Plenty of decent reviews, though, for a phone I've already had to replace once, and whose replacement is falling apart after about six months' light use.

Short term solution: Research, research, research.

Long term solution: Identify, name and shame.

more than 5 years ago

EA Spends 3x on Marketing Than Development

SpaceToast Hollywood (442 comments)

Having spent some time in Hollywood, I'll answer the poster's initial question. The general rule on movies is actually 1:1, production vs. marketing. Thus a studio that spends $30M producing a movie is expected to spend about another $30M on promotion.

This of course doesn't take into account the famous "Hollywood math" in which the cost of making a film can essentially be whatever the studio says it is. Essentially, any cost a production company incurs during the time of a film's production can be assigned to the budget of a film. This is done to make the film appear to have lost money or broken even no matter what its box office, DVD and television gross (Forrest Gump being the most famously ridiculous example of a "failure").

I would expect Hollywood math to have filtered in some form into the games industry by now, but how I can't imagine. Are annual software upgrades and new video cards charged to the budget of an individual game, or considered an unavoidable infrastructure cost? If a game studio purchases a setup to do basic mocap in-house, rather than having to contract out, is that cost eaten by the studio, assigned to the current game's budget, or spread among the twelve games the system is used on during its lifetime?

Accounting is a wooly and cutthroat art.

more than 5 years ago


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