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UK ISPs EE, Virgin and Vodafone Back Net Neutrality

Trepidity mutual disarmament? (36 comments)

In the UK case these ISPs mostly also run other media services: Virgin Media is a big media conglomerate that owns a bunch of TV channels, and Vodafone and EE both sell streaming-television services. A blocking/QoS war could be damaging to all of them, if they start preferring their own services and degrading other companies' services, so it might make business sense to just mutually agree not to do that.

about two weeks ago
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Cuba's Pending Tech Revolution

Trepidity Re:Did Congress pass a law? (122 comments)

their party's next nominee

I gather there's not much lost between the Obama and Clinton camps...

about two weeks ago
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European Countries Seek Sweeping New Powers To Curb Terrorism

Trepidity Re:To curb terrorism (219 comments)

Are the Slavs really more culturally similar than the Arabs, though? They feel at best "equally foreign" to me. Slavs are the eastern fringe of Europe, and Arabs are the southern fringe. They both intertwine with European history while remaining not quite entirely within it. And in the modern era, they are both more religious than the average Scandinavian, which manifests itself in fairly similar ways (the Slavs and Arabs both seem to hate gays). I'm not sure I would really prefer to have Slav neighbor than an Arab neighbor, all things considered. If anything the Slav seems more likely to try to sell my kidney to someone.

about two weeks ago
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Cuba's Pending Tech Revolution

Trepidity Re:Did Congress pass a law? (122 comments)

Indeed, the parts of the sanctions that are required by law remain in effect. Congress did give the executive pretty broad discretion over parts of them, though, which is what Obama is using to modify the sanction regime (something previous presidents have also done, in both directions). Specifically the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA) authorizes exports to Cuba in certain areas, such as agriculture and medicine. The law directs the Treasury Department to come up with regulations governing such exports, such as procedures for receiving a permit, and/or annual quotas, but doesn't specify these procedures in any detail. The president therefore has quite a bit of leeway regarding whether he wants the export-licensing process to be easier or harder. A president who wanted to maximally restrict exports could institute a very onerous licensing process with low limits (effectively the current process), while a president who wanted to loosen the restrictions could institute a more streamlined licensing process.

about two weeks ago
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European Countries Seek Sweeping New Powers To Curb Terrorism

Trepidity Re:To curb terrorism (219 comments)

I don't know what they do in the UK, but Eastern Europeans do not integrate well here. They are pretty notorious for being heavily involved in criminality.

about two weeks ago
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The Free Educational Software GCompris Comes To Android

Trepidity Re:That is *not* "free" software (75 comments)

I don't think XChat for Windows is open-source; in fact it appears the source code isn't even available, under any license. The site does provide diffs for its modifications to the LGPL libraries it's built on, but the source to the Windows front-end isn't released.

about two weeks ago
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European Countries Seek Sweeping New Powers To Curb Terrorism

Trepidity Re:To curb terrorism (219 comments)

Islam is opposed to the separation of church and state.

Eh, and so is Christianity generally. So much so that we do not even have separation of church and state in Denmark: the Church of Denmark is the official state church, which is written into the Constitution. There is freedom of conscience and worship, but one religion (Lutheran Protestant Christianity) is officially established, while the others are (according to the Constitution) merely tolerated, allowed to worship as they wish "provided that nothing at variance with good morals or public order shall be taught or done" (section 67).

Of course, in practice the church has lost almost all of its power in a gradual reform process spanning the past few decades. But I don't see this as some bit fundamental disagreement between Christianity and Islam, more a practical issue of which parts of each religion are dominant and what kinds of political power they have. In the current era, the temporal power of Christian theocrats is waning, so they are no longer much of a practical threat. But not because Christianity is doctrinally particularly great. Christian conservatives simply lost the political battle; if some things had turned out differently, they might have won, or at least come to more of a stalemate. But they didn't.

about two weeks ago
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European Countries Seek Sweeping New Powers To Curb Terrorism

Trepidity Re:To curb terrorism (219 comments)

Is it really a large number? Here in Scandinavia as far as I can tell there are indeed Muslim extremists, but a quite small number. I work with a number of Muslims in a regular office job, and they are more or less normal people. More religious than the average Scandinavian, but then so are Americans.

And in terms of actual crimes committed, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of terrorism going on here. There have actually been many more people killed by anti-Muslim nativists (like Anders Breivik) than by Muslim terrorists. Meaning that the people trying to "save" us from the Muslims are killing more of us than the Muslims are. In which case I would like to request that they stop trying to "save" us...

The biggest problems are more run-of-the-mill socioeconomic problems. A large number of young people in poor suburbs of Copenhagen and Aarhus end up committing petty crimes or joining street gangs. These are disproportionately immigrants, although it applies to Danes in those areas as well (who join biker gangs, which for some reason in Denmark are very white, and heavily involved in smuggling).

about two weeks ago
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Linus On Diversity and Niceness In Open Source

Trepidity nice try, timothy (361 comments)

You're not going to draw me into a Slashdot thread on this subject. Ok, sure, I posted this one comment in the thread. But no more.

about two weeks ago
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Steam For Linux Bug Wipes Out All of a User's Files

Trepidity Re: When I see that [literaly] textbook mistake... (329 comments)

That tends to be too restricted for things to actually run, alas. For example, something in a chroot can't even see libc or use standard Unix utilities on its own files, because /lib and /bin are outside of the chroot. You end up having to install a whole second copy of Linux inside the chroot...

about two weeks ago
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Steam For Linux Bug Wipes Out All of a User's Files

Trepidity Re:When I see that [literaly] textbook mistake.... (329 comments)

Does show a longstanding problem with the Unix security model, though: nothing more fine-grained than per-user permissions. There's no reason Steam should be able to delete (or even read) anything in my home directory other than its own files, but the only real way to keep it from doing so using straight Unix permissions is to create a new local user for every application.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Migrating a Router From Linux To *BSD?

Trepidity Re:Info about Gentoo, for those considering it (403 comments)

I don't think it's really accurate to say the BSDs are primarily source-based from a user perspective these days. FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD all use binary packages. You can build from source, but that's true on Debian too. The various BSD and Linux distributions differ a bit mainly in how strongly encouraged each option is, e.g. OpenBSD strongly recommends installing the official binary packages, not building your own.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Migrating a Router From Linux To *BSD?

Trepidity Re:pfsense (403 comments)

Considering it's the third major Unix to try fixing this problem, I don't think the problem is nonexistent or invented. Solaris came up with SMF, and OSX came up with launchd, basically to fix the same problem, which is that tangles of shell scripts are unmaintainable, buggy shit.

about two weeks ago
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Bitcoin Volatility Puts Miners Under Pressure

Trepidity Re:Currency Hedging (290 comments)

If you take the "mining" metaphor seriously, alternately you could advise commodity hedging, like what oil companies do to manage the risk of drilling (drilling costs $ but returns bbl of oil). Though there isn't really much practical difference between the two metaphors, I'll admit.

about two weeks ago
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The Mainframe Is Dead! Long Live the Mainframe!

Trepidity Re:plausible for some setups (164 comments)

And what you say about mainframe stability vs other HW - I don't think this is entirely true.

If you mean just individual servers, I agree, regular HW isn't too bad, and doesn't take a ton of admin power. I was thinking more of the case of replacing a big mainframe with a cluster, which has a whole different kind of administrative overhead. You can generally assume that a mainframe stays internally connected and working: CPU cards don't randomly lose connections to each other, your database and application software don't have to deal with networking hiccups or node failures, etc. Whereas if you move that to a cluster architecture, even using some kind of orchestration layer like OpenStack, you can't really assume that everything will "just work". Instead it has to be architected and administered as a distributed system, which needs quite a bit of effort on both the development and operations sides.

about two weeks ago
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The Mainframe Is Dead! Long Live the Mainframe!

Trepidity Re:they are dying (164 comments)

Thanks, that's an interesting comment. Especially with x86 servers getting fairly big these days (the 80-core, 4TB-ram monsters you mention), I can see that being plausible for some scenarios. Are all the services you ran previously each able to fit in a single x86 server now? If so that sounds like it'd greatly ease migration. One of the big pain-points of migration from mainframes to x86 clusters has traditionally been that it's hugely expensive to re-architect complex software so that it will run (and run reliably) on a distributed system, if it was originally written to run on a single system. But if the biggest single service you run is small enough to fit in your biggest x86 box, then you don't have to do the distributed-system rewrite.

about two weeks ago
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The Mainframe Is Dead! Long Live the Mainframe!

Trepidity plausible for some setups (164 comments)

The IBM pricing really is quite high (there are a ton of licensing fees for the hardware, maintenance, and software). But the systems work reliably. You get a giant system that can run a whole lot of VMs, with fast and reliable interconnects, transparent hardware failover (e.g. CPUs inside most mainframes come in redundant pairs), etc. To get a similar setup on commodity hardware you need some kind of "cloud" orchestration environment, like OpenStack, which can deal with VM management and migration, network storage, communication topology, etc. The advantage of an x86-64/OpenStack cluster solution is that the hardware+licensing costs are loads cheaper, and you don't have IBM levels of vendor lockin. The disadvantage is that it doesn't really work reliably; you're not going to get 5 9s of uptime on any significantly sized OpenStack deployment, and it will require an army of devops people to babysit it. The application complexity also tends to be higher, because failures are handled at the application level rather than at the system level: all your services need to be able to deal with non-transparent failover, split-brain scenarios, etc. Also the I/O interconnects between parts of the system (even if you're on 10GigE) are much worse than mainframe interconnects.

about two weeks ago
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SystemD Gains New Networking Features

Trepidity Re:Fuck Me (553 comments)

Putting it in pid1 is mostly driven by cgroups (the Linux kernel's hierarchical process-grouping/resource-management system). The initial kernel design for cgroups was that it was a shared resources managed via a pseudofilesystem (cgroupfs), but the developers of that subsystem seem to have decided that design was unworkable, and are moving towards a design where there can be exactly one userspace controller of the cgroups system at any given time. That more or less has to also be the process supervisor, or else you can't really do sensible things with tying resource-management to services (and increasingly, containers). And that all has to happen when the system is brought up, too. So either it needs to be in PID1, or it needs to be in several PIDs that are tightly coupled via an IPC mechanism. The systemd designers consider the second design more complex and error-prone. See e.g. here, plus a third-party comment here.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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Political Pressure Pushes NASA Technical Reports Offline

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about 2 years ago

Trepidity writes "The extensive NASA Technical Report Archive was just taken offline, following pressure from members of U.S. Congress, worried that Chinese researchers could be reading the reports. U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanded that "NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review", and NASA appears to have complied. Although all reports are in the public domain, there doesn't appear to be a third-party mirror available (some university libraries do have subsets on microfiche)."
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AI Systems Designing Games

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about 2 years ago

Trepidity writes "AI systems can (sort of) paint and compose classical music, but can they design games? Slashdot looked at the question a few years ago, and several research groups now have experimental systems that design board games and platformers with varying levels of success. I've put together a survey of the AI game designers I know of, to round up what they can do so far (and what they can't). Are there any others out there?"
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US Navy Admiral Questions Expensive Stealth Platforms

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Trepidity writes "United States Navy Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert stirred a controversy by questioning much of the thinking underlying current U.S. defense technology. He argues that stealth technology is unlikely to retain its usefulness much into the future, and so focus should switch towards standoff weapons. In addition, he criticizes the focus on expensive all-in-one platforms such as the F-35 fighter, arguing for a payload-centric, flexible approach he compares to trucks rather than luxury cars."
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Appeals Court rules TOS violations aren't criminal

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Trepidity writes "In a decision today (pdf), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act "does not extend to violations of use restrictions", and therefore violating terms of service and corporate use policies is not a federal crime. Law profesor Orin Kerr cheered the decision, but since three other Courts of Appeals have reached opposite decisions, it might be heading to the Supreme Court."
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MP3Tunes wins victory for cloud music storage

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "In a case being closely watched by companies like Amazon and Google, for the implications it could have for their own cloud-based "music locker" services, a judge ruled in the case of MP3Tunes that the way such services operate is generally legal. In particular, they are eligible for DMCA safe-harbor protections, and de-duplication of identical files uploaded by different users does not create a "master copy" that would make the company liable for public-performance royalties. Furthermore, if a fingerprint finds an exact match with an already-uploaded file, the company can legally skip the actual uploading step, rather than only de-duplicating after upload. While this is good news for many other such services, MP3Tunes itself partially lost, because they hadn't properly responded to DMCA takedown notices, and the company's founder had made the bone-headed move of personally distributing public links to some of the "privately" stored copyrighted music. Full decision here (PDF)."
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Gamification roundup

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "Controversy continues over the seemingly unstoppable trend of "gamification" (something Slashdot's covered previously). The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business held a Gamification Symposium entitled "For The Win" this week, indicating apparent academic respectability. But in the opening panel debating definitions of "gamification", one participant, game scholar Ian Bogost, defined it as "bullshit". Elsewhere, Jon Radoff responds that it may not be bullshit, but is too focused on superficial behaviorism rather than deeper gameplay. For my part, I wonder if by claiming gamification is a completely new thing, rather than just a new word, we're missing out on important past lessons, like the very strange history of Soviet gamification."
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Places with the most Wikipedia articles

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "Wikipedia has been making an effort to mark up articles with latitude-longitude coordinates when they refer to a specific location. It's now done so for over a million articles (across all languages). I was curious which parts of the world have gotten the most coverage. The answer is: Florence, Italy has the most articles within a 1-km-diameter circle; and London tops both the 10-km and 100-km lists. Here are the full results."
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Cow Clicker tackles world hunger

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "Cow Clicker distilled Facebook games down to their essence: clicking on cows. Since then, though, social games have upped their sights, focusing on lofty goals like solving hunger, disease, and poverty. Not wanting to miss this utopian gaming trend, Cow Clicktivism turns clicks on cows into real cows, via Oxfam America. Even better, anyone with a revolutionary idea for how clicking on cows can fix the world can now implement it, using the Cow Clicker API."
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Cow Clicker: The Essence of Facebook Games

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

mjn writes "Game designer and academic Ian Bogost announces Cow Clicker, a Facebook game implementing the mechanics of the Facebook-games genre stripped to their core. You get a cow, which you can click on every six hours. You earn additional clicks if your friends in your pasture also click. You can buy premium cows with 'mooney', and also use your mooney to buy more clicks. You can buy mooney with real dollars, or earn some free bonus mooney if you spam up your feed with Cow Clicker activity. A satire of Facebook games, but actually as genuine a game as the non-satirical games are. And people actually play it, perhaps confirming Bogost's view that the genre of games is largely just "brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money", which continue to work even when the users are openly told what's going on."
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Facebook retroactively makes more user data public

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

mjn writes "In yet another backtrack from their privacy policy, Facebook has decided to retroactively move more information into the public, indexable part of profiles. The new profile parts made public are: a list of things users have become "fans" of (now renamed to "likes"), their education and work histories, and what they list under "interests". Apparently there is neither any opt-out nor even notice to users, despite the fact that some of this information was entered by users at a time when Facebook's privacy policy explicitly promised that it wouldn't be part of the public profile."
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Library of Congress to Archive All Tweets

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

mjn writes "Continuing their recent push to archive more digital content, the U.S. Library of Congress announced a deal with Twitter to archive all public tweets, dating back to Twitter's inception in March 2006. More details at their blog. No word yet on precisely what will be done with the collection, but besides entering your friends' important updates on the quality of breakfast into the permanent archival record, the deal may improve access for researchers wanting to analyze and mine Twitter's giant database."
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Prison bans D&D for mimicking gang structure

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "In a case that has been winding its way through the courts for a bit, a Wisconsin prison banned inmates from playing Dungeons & Dragons, using the justification that 'one player is denoted the Dungeon Master... [who] is tasked with giving directions to other players ... [which] mimics the organization of a gang'. The prison also cited some sparse evidence that a handful of non-inmate D&D players once committed some crimes that allegedly were related to their D&D playing. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld [pdf] the regulation Monday against challenges from inmates. The court appeared skeptical of the ban, sarcastically referring to it as the 'war on D&D', but nonetheless upheld it as having a 'rational basis'. Law prof. Ilya Somin suggests that the court may have had no choice, given how deferential rational-basis review usually is."
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The Murky Origins of Zork's Name

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about 5 years ago

mjn writes "Computational media researcher Nick Montfort traces the murky origins of Zork's name. It's well known that the word was used in MIT hacker jargon around that time, but how did it get there? Candidates are the term "zorch" from late 1950s DIY electronics slang, the use of the term as a placeholder in some early 1970s textbooks, the typo a QWERTY user would get if he typed "work" on an AZERTY keyboard, and several uses in obscure sci-fi. No solid answers so far, though, as there are problems with many of the possible explanations, that would have made MIT hackers unlikely to have run across them at the right time."
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Supreme Court skeptical of business method patents

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "The U.S. Supreme Court held oral argument Monday in Bilski , a business-methods patent case that might also have important implications for software patents (Slashdot's previously covered the case several times). The tone of the argument appears to be good news, as the justices were very skeptical of the broad patentability claims. They even brought up a parade of absurd hypothetical patents quite similar to the ones Slashdotters tend to mention in these kinds of debates. Roberts surmised that "buy low, sell high" might be a patentable business method, Sotomayor wondered if speed-dating could be patentable, Breyer questioned whether a professor could patent a lesson plan that kept his students from falling asleep, and Scalia brought up the old-time radio soap opera Lorenzo Jones , featuring a hare-brained inventor with delusions of getting rich."
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Lori Drew case cyberbullying case dismissed

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "About 7 weeks after the judge tentative overturned Lori Drew's guilty verdict for "cyberbullying" following her online harassment of a teenager that was linked to the teenager's suicide, the case was finally officially dismissed. In a 32-page opinion [PDF], the court avoided a minefield of possible follow-on effects that civil-liberties groups had warned of by holding that merely violating a website's Terms of Service cannot constitute "unauthorized access" for the purposes of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. 1030)."
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Computing education on a treadmill?

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Mark J. Nelson writes "A recent op-ed discusses some educators co-opting cell phones to be used for educational purposes: "Among the exercises, students measured the area of a school hallway, recorded the geologic stages of the rock cycle and found mean, median, mode and range from a group of numbers. They sketched and even animated on the phones." While this might be a useful strategy, Prof. Mark Guzdial wonders if computers in education are on something of a fashion treadmill. Previously, students used graphing calculators for all these things; now we're reinventing the same thing on cell phones. In other areas, the "Hello World" of yore, having grown stale, has been replaced with playing a sound or displaying some graphics. Is progress in CS education really just a process of constantly updating the same fundamental stuff with a fresh look?"
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Harmful Effects of SPEC Storage Benchmarks

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "Sun engineer Bryan Cantrill, probably best known as one of the designers of DTrace and now working on storage servers, wrote an interesting thorough dismantling of the SPEC storage server benchmarks, accusing them of driving worse performance and especially worse performance-per-price for most workloads. In particular, they seem to be based on workload assumptions from 1986 with little revision (ironically, largely from 1986-era Sun documents), and have particularly egregious requirements for large, randomly accessed working sets that effectively make caching architectures useless, instead rewarding architectures that just throw a bunch of really fast, expensive drives into a box. Coincidentally, that's what the ultra-expensive products from entrenched market leader NetApp do. Cantrill isn't a neutral observer, of course: his current work is on cache-heavy storage architectures based around SSDs and ZFS. But his criticisms still seem pretty solid."
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Airport-Security Game iPhone Approval Woes

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "G4TV has a segment on the iPhone App Store approval process of JetSet, a game parodying airport security policies. While you might think Apple objected to the concept itself, they rejected it instead for "inappropriate sexual content", apparently because of the inclusion of items like underwire bras (which are notorious for setting off metal detectors). Worse, they initially didn't say what parts of the game they objected to, leading to a months-long guessing process to get the game eventually approved."
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Atari 2600 Book Released

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about 6 years ago

Trepidity writes "AtariAge reports that 'Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System' was just published by MIT Press. It seems to be the first book-length retrospective on the Atari VCS (2600), covering its hardware, programming, business rise and fall, culture, aesthetics, and how all those interrelated to produce one of the most influential gaming platforms. Authors Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort chose six cartridges for particularly in-depth study: Combat, Adventure, Pac-Man, Yars' Revenge, Pitfall!, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. (The title is a reference to the line-by-line video output required by the 2600's lack of a framebuffer.)"
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MIPS/Linux hacker Thiemo Seufer dies

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Trepidity writes "Longtime Linux-MIPS hacker Thiemo Seufer died in a car accident on December 26. Among other things, he was a major contributor to the Linux kernel's MIPS port, served as the MIPS maintainer/co-maintainer for binutils for 5 years, was the main supporter of the Debian MIPS port, and produced thousands of patches to free-software packages ranging from SBCL to QEMU to get them working (or working better) on or with the MIPS platform."
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