Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Comments

top

Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

eldavojohn Over at Dice? (309 comments)

Over at Dice

But we are at Dice, sir:

[Querying whois.publicinterestregistry.net]
[whois.publicinterestregistry.net]
Domain Name:SLASHDOT.ORG
Domain ID: D2289308-LROR
Creation Date: 1997-10-05T04:00:00Z
Updated Date: 2014-03-14T22:12:11Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2015-10-04T04:00:00Z
Sponsoring Registrar:Tucows Inc. (R11-LROR)
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 69
WHOIS Server:

Referral URL:
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Registrant ID:tuE8gFbzWFO9qSj2
Registrant Name:Host Master
Registrant Organization:Dice Holdings, Inc.
Registrant Street: 1040 Avenue of the Americas
Registrant City:New York
Registrant State/Province:NY
Registrant Postal Code:10018
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.8557527436
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email:hostmaster@slashdotmedia.com

Pros: Today's article has more content than the usual Dice front page linkage. Great article if you're not a programmer but feel stymied by the wide assortment of languages out there. Although instead of hemming and hawing before making your first project you're better off listening to Winston Churchill and sticking your feet in the mud: "The maxim 'Nothing avails but perfection' may be spelt shorter -- 'Paralysis."

Cons: It barely scratches the surface of an incredibly deep topic with unlimited facets. And when one is considering investing potential technical debt into a technology, this probably wouldn't even suffice as an introduction let alone table of contents. Words spent on anecdotes ("In 2004, a coworker of mine referred to it as a 'toy language.'" like, lol no way bro!) could have been better spent on things like Lambdas in Java 8. Most interesting on the list is Erlang? Seems to be more of a random addition that could just as easily been Scala, Ruby, Groovy, Clojure, Dart -- whatever the cool hip thing it is we're playing with today but doesn't seem to quite pan out on a massive scale ...

2 days ago
top

$500k "Energy-Harvesting" Kickstarter Scam Unfolding Right Now

eldavojohn Some Public Records ... You Know ... Just in Case (448 comments)

So a whois.net domain name lookup on their site yielded nothing. And there are suspiciously no patents mentioning "wetag" or "ifind" and the names they listed (Dr. Paul McArthur) are in patents but for cold fusion BS in California.

Surely, though, they must have registered the "iFind" trademark? And if you search on TESS we find:

Owner (APPLICANT) WeTag, Inc. CORPORATION TEXAS 3309 San Mateo Drive Plano TEXAS 75023

With an attorney listed as "Richard G. Eldredge" which corresponds to a local attorney. Before you deploy the door kickers to lynch somebody, that address is just somebody's $200,000 house and could possibly be a random address used by a jerk. Remember that it's entirely possible that this is all a front by some other actor and someone was paid western union/bitcoin to register this trademark through this attorney without realizing they were just being used by literally anyone in the world ... of course, kickstarter should have even better transaction details (hopefully).

about a month ago
top

The W3C Sells Out Users Without Seeming To Get Anything In Return

eldavojohn Since No One Has Pointed It Out Yet (348 comments)

'What do we get for that DRM?'

Did "we" vote on this? Let's look at their members list: Apple, AT&T, Facebook, Csico, Comcast, Cox, Google, Huawei, HP, Intel, LG, Netflix, Verizon, Yahoo!, Zynga and ... The Walt Disney Company. Seriously, are we really so daft that we sit here scratching our heads wondering why a consortium of those players and THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY ended up including DRM? REALLY? There is a bill known as The Mickey Mouse Act in regards to excessive copyright that was passed into US law. And we're wondering how Disney might have influenced DRM as an option in a standard ... they're on the list, folks! Pull your heads out of your asses!

And those are just the companies I recognize that have a serious amount of money to be made on DRM (hello, Netflix?!). If I examine closer, there are much smaller players like, say, Fotosearch Stock Photography and Footage that sound like they would gladly vote for DRM in order to "protect" their products/satiate content owners.

about 10 months ago
top

Upper Limit On Emissions Likely To Be Exceeded Within Decades

eldavojohn I Thought It Was Clear (324 comments)

only about 1 trillion tons of carbon can be burned and the resulting gas spewed into the atmosphere. Just over half that amount has already been emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and at current rates of energy consumption, the trillionth ton will be released around 2040

Do they honestly believe there is some total quantity of emissions that can be tolerated? I mean as opposed to a rate of emissions - like annually. We know that the system recycles carbon taking it out of the atmosphere, and we know that the rate it's removed increases as the concentration increases. So if we assume there is a limit, it should be on the rate of carbon emissions and not the total emitted over time.

If you read the "Summary for Policymakers" PDF document linked in the summary, there is no talk of "total quantity of emissions tolerated" or any of this trillionth ton idea. Instead it appears to be talking about . In fact, it appears to reside solely in that New York Times article that very clearly says:

To stand the best chance of keeping the planetary warming below an internationally agreed target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels and thus avoiding the most dangerous effects of climate change, the panel found, only about 1 trillion tons of carbon can be burned and the resulting gas spewed into the atmosphere.

Just over half that amount has already been emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and at current rates of energy consumption, the trillionth ton will be released around 2040, according to calculations by Myles R. Allen, a scientist at the University of Oxford and one of the authors of the new report.

(emphasis mine) So to answer your question: The trillion tons is an estimate of what we would need to burn in order to hit an internationally agreed limit that would likely produce the worst effects of climate change. The number of tons we burn is even an estimate. It's all estimates because we don't have parallel Earths where we can keep controls and change one variable to see what happens. If you don't accept the ability of making estimates with levels of certainty, there is no way to make any statements about the effects of putting carbon into our atmosphere on a global scale.

These guys are looking dumber all the time.

I suppose it would appear that way if you only get your information from The New York Times and throw away everything they're actually saying.

about 10 months ago
top

Apple Faces New China Worker Abuse Claims

eldavojohn Apples to Oranges (158 comments)

If it wasn't for all the false reporting about conditions at Foxconn, I might take this seriously.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Daisey

"All the false reporting" was one nutjob who was confusing journalism with stage performance. A stark difference between Mike Daisey and China Labor Watch is their falsifiable report that, unlike Daisey's heart wrenching anecdotal stories, can be checked.

Examples:

At Pegatron, over 10,000 underage and student workers (interns), from 16 to 20 years of age, work in crowded production rooms, doing the same work as formal, adult workers. But some students are paid lower wages because schools deduct fees for the internship, while other students will not have their wages paid to them on time.

CLW’s investigations revealed at least 86 labor rights violations, including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations. The violations fall into 15 categories: dispatch labor abuse, hiring discrimination, women’s rights violations, underage labor, contract violations, insufficient worker training, excessive working hours, insufficient wages, poor working conditions, poor living conditions, difficulty in taking leave, labor health and safety concerns, ineffective grievance channels, abuse by management, and environmental pollution.

Did you read the report? It's got hard numbers and straight up accusations with defined conditions that can be checked. It's not like "I met a little girl who polished my iPhone." Instead it's like "A dorm room at Pegatron can accommodate 12 people. From Monday to Friday, residents have to clock-in within 24 hours or else they will be considered checked out of the dorm." or "The Pegatron factories had a list of discriminatory hiring practices, including refusing to hire people shorter than 4 foot 11 inches tall, pregnant women, those older than 35, people with tattoos, or people of the Hui, Tibetan, or Uighur ethnic groups."

1 year,2 days
top

Tesla Motors May Be Having an iPhone Moment

eldavojohn MSRP of $62,400 Though? (452 comments)

For all the whining and moaning about rich people, that seems to be how society advances often. A rich person's fad then becomes a commodity.

Yeah ... but I mean to call the Model S no longer a rich person's fad is stretching it. Their MSRPs for a 60 kWh car is $62,400. $72,400 for an 85 kWh and $87,400 for the 85 kWh with upgraded features. Is this really affordable? I thought I was living a pretty average lifestyle but I spent $6,600 on my current car ... Of course, if you're calling it the iPhone in that everyone else is buying it and I'm laughing at how much money they're spending on phones then, yes, it could be called the iPhone. Still very much a rich person's car though.

1 year,13 days
top

Jimmy Carter Calls Snowden Leak Ultimately "Beneficial"

eldavojohn Two Other Outspoken Politicians (424 comments)

Mod parent up. We need more brave politicians to finally speak their minds about this instead of fearing the surveillance machine.

What are you talking about? There are plenty of politicians speaking their minds about Snowden -- but I don't know if I'd call them "brave." Looking at just the previous administration, George W. Bush:

I think he damaged the security of the country

And Dick Cheney:

I think he's a traitor

Of course, as another poster mentioned, they've got nothing to lose same as Carter.

1 year,13 days
top

Why Yahoo and Marissa Mayer's Over Reliance On Alibaba Could Spell Trouble

eldavojohn Yahoo! Mission Statement (91 comments)

What exactly does Yahoo sell? Do they even have a mission statement?

From several investor calls she has said:

“Yahoo is about making the world’s daily habits more inspiring and entertaining,”

Which is a little more positive and slightly better than Yahoo!'s previous mission statement:

"Now open up all your little fucking birdie mouths because Papa Yahoo!'s got a big juicy unwanted browser toolbar to slam down your goddamn throats."

1 year,14 days
top

Can OpenStack Avoid Fragmentation In China?

eldavojohn 'Gone Their Own Way with Android'? What? (42 comments)

More recently, Chinese companies have gleefully gone on their own with Android,

What are you talking about? From that article they made a few comments about how they wish to move away from Google's Android. And actually here's the exact quote that sentiment was extrapolated from:

"Our country's mobile operating system research and development is heavily reliant on Android," according to a white paper from a research division of China's tech regulator, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. "Although the Android system currently remains open source, the core technologies and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google."

That's a quote from some Chinese Ministry, not even a group of Chinese developers. I hear that more like "Chinese are reluctantly still installing Google's Android on most of their phones. Google's Android use still rising sharply in China with no end in sight." Can you point me to the Chinese repo for the forked source to android? Surely if it's widely distributed it must also make the source available?

'Gleefully gone their own way'? Yeah, tell you what, fork Android for China and let's compare the two code bases for support and worldwide use one year later. I suspect the glee will be entirely one-sided and it's not going to be China's Android.

1 year,20 days
top

Orson Scott Card Pleads 'Tolerance' For Ender's Game Movie

eldavojohn Re:Who Cares? (1448 comments)

Your objection is that it has a message you disagree with. In that sense, I agree with Card. It is intolerance. And closed-mindedness. If you refuse to listen to any argument against what you believe in, you must believe in a lot of things that aren't true.

But I've read all his arguments. I've actually read them all. I went from being a huge Card fan to deciding he shall no longer see a cent of my money and I will no longer read his work. That's not closed-mindedness. He's had his pedestal for quite some time and I'm done with him. I'm not stripping him of his first amendment rights, he can go to the town square and scream himself hoarse for all I care. What I'm stripping him of is my hard earned money that he uses to spread that message on the internet and in his community.

Would you buy fruit from a KKK vendor? Would you pay for magazines spouting racism just to make sure you are covering all your bases and hearing all arguments of the issue? No. Because that issue is settled in your mind and you no longer want to financially support the other side. I feel the same way about homosexual marriage. And from what I've read he's not providing any original viewpoints on this issue. So the guy's not getting one more ounce of my resources and on top of it, I'll let anyone know who brings him up what he's said in his newsletters and websites about equal rights of United States citizens.

Believe it or not, KKK members cannot offer you much better arguments for racism than they could a hundred years ago. And for that I'm not stupid enough to accuse you of being closed minded because you ignore their message today.

1 year,21 days
top

Orson Scott Card Pleads 'Tolerance' For Ender's Game Movie

eldavojohn Re:Who Cares? (1448 comments)

In my head, what youre doing to him is on par with what he is doing to homosexuals. Similarly you also have the "i do it because its right"-justification.

Is that a joke? He has a right to his religion. I get upset when that belief infringes on other people's rights. The Federal government has over a thousand laws referring to marriage. Many of those laws benefits couples living together like social security benefits, inheritance rights, etc. I am advocating this from an egalitarian standpoint that those people who are in love with each other are treated like any other pair of human beings consensually in love with each other. And yes, I think that trumps Mr. Card's horseshit religion or his lack of his ability to sit down with his dumbass children and say "Look, two people can love each other no matter what sex they are." But because he's afraid some bearded cloud God is going to fire and brimstone us, I cannot promote equal rights among human beings?

My justification isn't "I do it because it's right" you idiot, my justification is I do it because these laws are ridiculously unfair to a subset of the people who have done nothing wrong in the eyes of a secular government.

If you want to call it a "civil union" or whatever, that's fine. But I don't want employers or government offices calling some people "married" and other people "civil unioned" because that can lead to "second class" treatment and promotes discrimination among employers. In the eyes of the government, two humans should be able to marry each other with equal treatment and equal labeling.

Calling me intolerant on this issue makes no sense. I support freedom of religion but I'm not going to stand for some Christian version of sharia law in what claims to be a secular government.

Capitalism suffers from a lack of responsibility to know what you are supporting. A small group of people boycotting this movie is merely informing people what they are supporting. Just like I would boycott a company that pollutes.

1 year,21 days
top

Orson Scott Card Pleads 'Tolerance' For Ender's Game Movie

eldavojohn Re:Who Cares? (1448 comments)

If I cared about the views of the people behind the movies, or the actors... I wouldnt be able to watch any movies. I look forward to seeing this one, whether the author likes or dislikes gay people.

The primary problem is when he uses his artistic medium and influence to spread this message. Which he most certainly has:

In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.

Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.

Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.

So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage.

Translation: "Your entire life has to be a lie because I'm ignorant." And no, I do not go see Tom Cruise movies because he uses his stardom and money he gets from those movies to push a very dangerous religion! There are some issues where I flat out draw the line. I'm not boycotting Clint Eastwood because he's said some politically stupid stuff but there are some issues like homosexuality where I feel like I'm promoting ignorance if I promote those who think homosexuals should not have the same rights as heterosexuals. It's an egalitarian issue in my mind and I'm not going to see Ender's Game nor will I read the rest of the Shadow series.

1 year,21 days
top

China Environment Ministry Calls Itself One of Four Worst Departments In World

eldavojohn The Original Research (126 comments)

I found this paragraph particularly fascinating: "The environment minister's admission came as a new study claimed that severe air pollution in northern China had slashed life expectancies there by more than five years compared to the south, potentially robbing 500 million Chinese of a total of 2.5 billion years of life"

Why stop there when the original research paper is fully available to all*?

* For values of "all" outside of China where it's probably considered "disharmonious."

1 year,22 days
top

China Environment Ministry Calls Itself One of Four Worst Departments In World

eldavojohn What About the Ministry of Censorship? (126 comments)

What are your list of the other three most embarrassing departments in our world?

Surely the Environmental Ministry cannot be as harmful as the Chinese Ministry preventing this quote from being carried in Xinhua, China Daily or any major news source in China?

Tell me about the uproar that must have erupted from North of the Huai River when it was announced that the lack of environmental compliance has reduced life expectancy on average by five years in the northern half of China. Show me the state sponsored news source that ran that story. Go ahead, compare that article with with this one. The latter makes it sound like it was second hand smoke as the primary source of limited life spans. It's like reading two completely different health reports!

Solve your censorship problem and you will solve a lot of your other problems. Just be prepared to see high turnover in your leadership -- something that has been needed for a very long time in China.

1 year,22 days
top

According To YouGov Poll, Snowden Support Declining Among Americans

eldavojohn Gonna Have to Disagree with You There (658 comments)

Wow does this headline have things reversed.

Edward Snowden has been subjected to a month long attack campaign. This started with go after his girlfriend for being a pole dancer. It followed with other negative news stories and criticism by major politicians. From there there was a federal espionage indictment. He then had to flee the country and the USA has gone to extraordinary lengths putting pressure on countries to isolate him. The media has been mainly complicit. And after all that is approval rating has dropped a mere 5 points.

That's the story.

Submitter here and I'm afraid I'm going to have to outright disagree with you. I just don't see your events lining up with this recent drop in support. You're talking about months old efforts to discredit him that seemed to have little effect on his popularity. If you read the HuffPo article you'll see:

Much of the drop in support for Snowden's actions since the earlier poll appears to have taken place among Republicans, who were divided, 37 percent to 37 percent, on whether Snowden did the right thing in the previous poll, but in the latest poll said by a 44 percent to 29 percent margin that he did the wrong thing.

As fallout from his revelations ruin our foreign relations I think you'll see a lot of conservatives switch positions. This is simply a more plausible explanation. US as a power player in world politics and economics is simply higher on some people's agendas then their own damned privacy.

1 year,24 days
top

Zynga Puts Random Stranger In Customer Support Role

eldavojohn Oh! "Borrowing" Some UI Stuff, Huh? (158 comments)

I see this happen sometimes and it can usually be traced back to someone "borrowing" someone else's work on the UI side of things (CSS, JavaScript, HTML, etc) as a starting point and then never altering the important things.

Instead, it belonged to Eric Mueller, who owns the domain themepark.com, which he uses for his web design firm.

Given Zynga's code of ethics (or lack thereof), I would wager this e-mail found its way into "their" product by way of their mission statement which probably transcends game ideas into directly taking web designs that are, by definition, available to anyone with an HTTP connection. Stay classy, Zynga.

1 year,27 days
top

US Director of National Intelligence Admits He Was Wrong About Data Collection

eldavojohn Two More Strategies (296 comments)

Then when the lie is outed, you try to soften it some by saying it was a mistake, an erroor, or I misspoke.

Don't overlook the other responses like one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner's response:

As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation. While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act. I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.

Oh, so now instead of taking responsibility as the author of that which has threatened your constituents it's the fault of those who interpreted the law incorrectly. Surely, then, you will go after those who interpreted the law incorrectly for breaking the spirit of the law? No? You don't say ...

Or perhaps you'd like to hear George W. Bush's take on his responsibility for his administration allowing the Patriot Act to be passed:

Asked about an NSA program that tracks people's Internet activity, Bush said, "I put that program in place to protect the country. One of the certainties was that civil liberties were guaranteed."

So, we have another slam dunk certainty that civil liberties were guaranteed and as long as you keep saying that, it's true in your own little reality that no one else shares with you! Thank god those were guaranteed, right? RIGHT?

1 year,28 days
top

Firefox Takes the Performance Crown From Chrome

eldavojohn In Windows 8 64 Bit As Defined by Tom's Hardware (326 comments)

Neat test but I think the summary could at least clarify that the test system is Windows 8 64 Bit. It doesn't really mean a whole lot to me when I'm running a 64 bit distribution of GNU/Linux. Also the tests are selected by Tom's Hardware as a suite ... some of these tests are fairly meaningless to me and I feel like something like cold start time should be more heavily weighted than, say, hardware acceleration performance. The wait time on start up affects everyone and is unavoidable where hardware acceleration is nice but also not something I focus on. Also, why is a topic like "security" included in a "performance" test? I think standards compliance and security should be separated out to their own scores.

Is anyone reading this actually using Windows 8?

1 year,29 days
top

Supreme Court Overturns Defense of Marriage Act

eldavojohn Re:You Don't Know What You're Talking About (1073 comments)

I am having trouble understanding your post. The parts you quoting appear basically unrelated to your responses.

Basically your post demonstrates a failed understanding that there are many marriage laws at the federal level. To say "Good! The US should stay out of it." makes about as much sense as saying "We should have no federal laws regarding marriage." This includes laws like federal tax laws being applied to married couples.

To recap, the federal government had to weigh in one way or another because they had a large amount of legislation that refers to "marriage." And the opposing sides in this issue actually view either ruling as the federal government sticking its nose in people's personal business. The anti-gay marriage crowd saw DOMA as the status quo and will likely view this overturning of DOMA as the federal government getting involved with dictating what is and isn't a marriage. Conversely the status quo was unacceptable to a small group.

Ethically this is a black and white issue and DOMA should have been overturned. But saying the federal government should butt out is not so cut and dried. Your post seemed to say it's just a marriage certificate and "News flash: gay couples live as married couples whether you like it or not." This is completely the wrong way to look at this, they were not receiving the same benefits as heterosexual married couples and saying "gay couples live as married couples" shows you don't understand the significance of DOMA being overturned. Now surviving spouse benefits will apply to one member of a gay couple same as it would to a member of a heterosexual couple. And that's just one of many things that heterosexual couples were enjoying that homosexual couples could not.

about a year ago
top

Supreme Court Overturns Defense of Marriage Act

eldavojohn You Don't Know What You're Talking About (1073 comments)

Anyway, this is great. People think that preventing gay marriage is somehow taking a stand against homosexuality or something. News flash: gay couples live as married couples whether you like it or not.

You clearly have not been following this issue. This wasn't just about a marriage certificate. This was also about the thousand or so federal laws that applied only to heterosexual couples now also applying to homosexual couples that are married.

Now they can truly be viewed as equal couples in the eyes of the federal government and, most importantly, receive the same exact treatment -- good or bad -- in the federal legislation for married couples.

The only thing banning the marriage certificate does is punish them for being gay.

What rock have you been living under for the past decade?

about a year ago

Submissions

top

Star Wars: Episode VII Cast Officially Announced

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 3 months ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Word was leaking this week of some familiar faces in London hanging out together. Finally today an official cast listing was handed down from on high to us mere mortals (Google Cache and Onion AV recap available). From the short release, "Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film." Let's not bicker and argue about who shot first but instead come to an agreement on expected levels of almost certain disappointment. No, this will not feature the Expanded Universe (EU) — you can now refer to those tales as "Legends" which are not part of Star Wars canon. Instead prepare yourself for what will likely be the mother of all retcon films."
Link to Original Source
top

Russia Proposes Banning Foul Language on the Internet

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  1 year,1 day

eldavojohn (898314) writes "In a country where it's illegal to insult a government official, State Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina has proposed an amendment to ban swearing on social networks, bulletin boards and all websites. The website would be blocked if the offending material had not been removed within 24 hours. The name of the law this would be added to? "On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development." Mizulina's title in regards to this legislation? Chairwoman of the Committee on Family, Women and Children (No joke!). Of course, Yelena Mizulina is no stranger to unwarranted censorship as she was behind the law banning gay propaganda to minors and invoked laws to try to silence critics on twitter. The article also notes, 'United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov put forward a similar initiative on 25 July. He proposed to tighten control over social networks and allow people to dating sites through their passports.'"
Link to Original Source
top

Jimmy Carter Calls Snowden Leak Ultimately "Beneficial"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  1 year,13 days

eldavojohn (898314) writes "According to RT, the 39th president of the United States made several statements worth noting. Carter said that 'America has no functioning democracy at this moment' and 'the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far.' The second comment sounded like the Carter predicted the future would look favorably upon Snowden's leads — at least those concerning domestic spying in the United States — as he said: 'I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.' It may be worth noting that, stemming from Zurcher v. Stanford Daily, Jimmy Carter signed the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 into law and that Snowden has received at least one nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize."
Link to Original Source
top

According to YouGov Poll, Snowden Support Declining Among Americans

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  1 year,25 days

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A recent poll from the YouGov consisting of one thousand responses shows that Snowden's support among Americans has shifted. Now, according to the poll, more Americans think he did the wrong thing rather than the right thing when asked 'Based on what you’ve heard, do think Snowden’s leak of top-secret information about government surveillance programs to the media was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?' The results and breakdown can be found in this PDF. Without getting into racial or political breakdowns, the results now show that 38% say he did the wrong thing, 33% say he did the right thing and 29% remain undecided about the results of his actions. Instead of charging the populace into action Snowden may be facing apathy at best and public disapproval at worst."
Link to Original Source
top

Death of Trees Correlated with Human Cardiovascular & Respiratory Disease

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "PBS's NewsHour interviewed Geoffrey Donovan on his recent research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that noted a correlation between trees (at least the 22 North American ash varieties) and human health: 'Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people's health. And if that's true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does.' The basis of this research is Agrilus planipennis, the emerald ash borer, which has systematically destroyed 100 million trees in the eastern half of the United States since 2002. After accounting for all variables, the research found that an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease in the 15 states infected with the bug compared with uninfected areas of the country. While the exact cause and effect remains unknown, this research appears to be reinforcing data for people who regularly enjoy forest bathing as well as providing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits."
Link to Original Source
top

Book Review: Core HTML5 Canvas

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Core HTML5 Canvas is a book that focuses on illuminating HTML5 game development for beginning and intermediate developers. While HTML and JavaScript have long been a decent platform for displaying text and images, Geary provides a great programming learning experience that facilitates the canvas element in HTML5. In addition, smatterings of physics engines, performance analysis and mobile platform development give the reader nods to deeper topics in game development.

author David Geary
pages 723 pages
publisher Prentice Hall
rating 9/10
reviewer eldavojohn
ISBN 9780132761611
summary An introduction to game development in HTML5’s canvas that brings the developer all the way up to graphics, animation and basic game development.

This book is written with a small introduction to HTML and JavaScript. While Geary does a decent job of describing some of those foundational skill sets, I fear that a completely novice developer might have a hard time getting to the level required for this text. With that in mind, I would recommend this book for people who already have at least a little bit of HTML and JavaScript development in their background. This book may also be useful to veteran developers of an unrelated language who can spot software patterns easily and aren't afraid to pick up JavaScript along the way. You can read all of Chapter One of the book here if you want to get a feeling for the writing. Geary also has sample chapters available on his site for the book, corehtml5canvas.com and maintains the code examples on Github. If you already write games, this book is likely too remedial for you (especially the explanations of sprites and collision detection) and the most useful parts would be Geary's explanation of how to produce traditional game elements with the modern HTML5 standards.

I have very few negative things to say about this text – many of which may be attributed to personal preferences. This book is code heavy. It starts off with a sweet spot ratio for me. I found I spent about twenty to thirty percent of my time scanning over HTML and JavaScript snippets inserted occasionally into passages. However, by the last chapters, I found myself poring over lengthier and lengthier listings that made me feel like I was spending sixty to seventy percent of my time analyzing the JavaScript code. To be fair, the author does do a good job of simply referencing back to concepts learned in other chapters but I wouldn't mind a re-explanation of those topics or a more in depth analysis of how those concepts interoperate. I also feel that it is risky to put so much code into print as that greatly impacts the shelf life of an unchanging book. The book itself warns on page 51 that toBlob() was a new specification added to HTML5 between writing the book and the book being published. I feel like this would warrant much more English explaining what you're accomplishing and why so that the book does not age as much from being tightly coupled to a snapshot of the specifications.

The code listings in this book are wonderfully colored to indicate quickly to the eye what part of the JavaScript language each piece is. I'm not sure how many copies suffer from this but my book happened to have a problem on some of the pages whereby the comprising colors did not line up. Here is a good example and a bad example just a few pages apart.

This was infrequent but quite distracting as the code became more and more predominant. Lastly, Geary briefly introduces the reader to amazing performance tools (jsPerf in Chapter 1 and again Browserscope in Chapter 4) early on and demonstrates how to effectively exercise it on small pieces of JavaScript. In the particular example he shows how subtle differences in handling image data can affect the performance inside different browsers (even different versions of the same browser as I'm sure the JavaScript engines are repeatedly tweaked). Since games are always resource intensive, I wondered why the author didn't take these examples to the next level and show the reader how to write unit tests (not really covered in the book). That way each of these functions could be extracted to a common interface where it would be selectively chosen based on browser identification. While this might be unnecessary for images, it would be a nod toward addressing the long pole in the tent when you look to squeeze cycles out of your code. Oddly, as more concepts are established and combined, these performance exercises disappear. I understand this book was an introduction to these side quests with a focus on game development but this was one logical step I wish had been taken further (especially in Chapter 9: The Ungame).

About a year ago, I started a hobby project to develop a framework for playing cards in the browser on all platforms. The canvas element would be the obvious tool of choice for accomplishing this goal. Unfortunately I began development using a very HTML4 attitude with (what I now recognize) was laughable resource management. This book really helped me further along in getting that hobby project to a more useable state.

The first chapter of the book introduces the reader to the basics of HTML5 and the canvas element. The author covers things like using clientX and clientY for mouse events instead of x and y. A simple clock is built and shows how to correctly use the basic drawing parts of the HTML5 specification. For readers unfamiliar with graphics applications, a lot of ground is covered on how you programmatically start by constructing an invisible path that will not be visually rendered until stroke() or fill() is called. The chapter also covers the basic event/listener paradigm employed by almost anything accepting user input. Geary explains how to properly save and restore the surface instead of trying to graphically undo what was just done.

An important theme through this book is how to use HTML elements alongside a canvas. This was one of the first follies of my “everything goes in canvas” attitude. If you want a control box in your application, don't reinvent the partially transparent box with paths and fills followed by mouse event handling over your canvas (actually covered in Chapter 10) – simply use an HTML div and CSS to position it over your canvas. Geary shows how to do this and would have saved me a lot of time. Geary discusses and shows how to manage off-screen canvases (invisible canvases) in the browser which comes in mighty handy when boosting performance in HTML5. The final parts of Chapter One focus on remedial math and how to correctly handle units of measure when working in the browser.

Chapter Two shows the reader how to build a rudimentary paint application with basic capabilities. It does a great job of showing how to expand on the basic functions provided by HTML5 and covers a little bit of the logic behind the behavior. Geary goes so far as to show the reader how to extend some of the core components of HTML5 like CanvasRenderingContext2D with an additional function. He also cautions that this can lead to pitfalls in JavaScript. This chapter does an excellent job of exploiting and enumerating core drawing functionality to achieve the next level in using these lines and objects for a desired user effect. Prior to reading this chapter, I hadn't viewed clip() in the correct light and Geary demonstrates the beginnings of its importance in building graphics. In Chapter Three, text gets the same extensive treatment that the basic drawing elements did in Chapter Two. In reading this chapter, it became apparent hat HTML5 has a lot of tips and tricks (perhaps that comes with the territory of what it's trying to achieve) like you have to replace the entire canvas to erase text. Being a novice, I'm not sure if the author covered all of such things but I was certainly appreciative for those included.

Chapter Four was an eye opener on images, video and their manipulation in canvas. The first revelation was that drawImage() can also render another canvas or even a video frame into the current canvas. The API name was not indicative to me but after reading this chapter, it became apparent that if I sat down and created a layout of my game's surface, I could render groups of images into one off-screen canvas and then continually insert that canvas into view with drawImage(). This saved me from considerable rerendering calls. The author also included some drag and drop sugar in this chapter. The book helped me understand that sometimes there are both legacy calls to old ways of doing things and also multiple new ways to accomplish the same goal. When you’re trying to develop something as heavy as a game, there are a lot of pitfalls.

Chapter Five concentrates on animations in HTML5 and first and foremost identifies a problem I had struggled with in writing a game: don’t use setInterval() or setTimeout() for animations. These are imprecise and instead the book guides the reader with instructions on letting the browser select the frame rate. Being a novice, the underlying concepts of requestAnimationFrame() had eluded me prior to reading this book. Geary’s treatment of discussing each browser’s nuances with this method may someday be dated text but helped me understand why the API call is so vital. It also helps you build workarounds for each browser if you need them. Blitting was also a new concept to me as was the tactic of double buffering (which the browser already does to canvas). This chapter is heavy on the hidden caveats to animation in the browser and builds on these to implement parallax and a stopwatch. The end of this chapter has a number of particularly useful “best practices” that I now see as crucial in HTML5 game development.

Chapter Six details sprites and sprite sheets. Here the author gives us a brief introduction to design patterns (notably Strategy, Command and Flyweight) but it’s curious that this isn’t persisted throughout the text. This chapter covers painters in good detail and again how to implement motion and timed animation via sprites with requestNextAnimationFrame(). This chapter does a great job of showing how to quickly animate a spritesheet.

Chapter Seven gives the user a brief introduction to implementing simple physics in a game engine like gravity and friction. It’s actually just enough to move forward with the upcoming games but the most useful section of this chapter to me was how to warp time. While this motion looks intuitive, it was refreshing to see the math behind ease-in or ease-out effects. These simple touches look beautiful in canvas applications and critical, of course, in modeling realistic motion.

Naturally the next thing needed for a game is collision detection and Chapter Eight scratches the surface just enough to build our simple games. A lot of fundamental concepts are discussed like collision detection before or after the collision happens. Geary does a nice job of biting off just enough to chew from the strategies of ray casting, the separating axis theorem (SAT) and minimum translation vector algorithms for detecting collisions. Being a novice to collision detection, SAT was a new concept to me and I enjoyed Geary’s illustrations of the lines perpendicular to the normal vectors on polygons. This chapter did a great job of visualizing what the code was achieving. The last thing this chapter tackles is how to react or bounce off during a collision. It provided enough for the games but it seemed like an afterthought to collision detection. Isn’t there a possibility of spin on the object that could influence a bounce? These sort of questions didn’t appear in the text.

And Chapter Nine gets to the main focus of this book: writing the actual game with all our prior accumulated knowledge. Geary calls this light game engine “the ungame” and adds things like multitrack sound, keyboard event handling and how to implement a heads-up display to our repertoire. This chapter is very code heavy and it confuses me why Geary prints comments inlined in the code when he has a full book format to publish his words in. The ungame was called as such because it put together a lot of elements of the game but it was still sort of missing the basic play elements. Geary then starts in on implementing a pinball game. It may sound overly complicated for a learning text but as each piece of the puzzle is broken down, the author manages to describe and explain it fairly concisely. While this section could use more description, it is basically just bringing together and applying our prior concepts like emulating physics and implementing realistic motion. The pinball board is merely polygons and our code there to detect collisions with the circle that is the ball. It was surprisingly how quickly a pinball game came together.

Chapter Ten takes a look at making custom controls (as mentioned earlier about trying to use HTML when possible). From progress bars to image panners, this chapter was interesting and I really enjoyed the way the author showed how to componentize and reuse these controls and their parts. There’s really not a lot to say about this chapter, as you may imagine a lot of already covered components are implemented in achieving these controls and effects.

Geary recognizes HTML5’s alluring potential of being a common platform for developing applications and games across desktops and mobile devices. In the final chapter of the book, he covers briefly the ins and outs of developing for mobile — hopefully without having to force your users to a completely different experience. I did not realize that native looking apps could be achieved on mobile devices with HTML5 but even with that trick up its sleeve, it’s hard to imagine it becoming the de facto standard for all applications. Geary appears to be hopeful and does a good job of getting the developer thinking about the viewport and how the components of their canvas are going to be viewed from each device. Most importantly, it’s discussed how to handle different kinds of input or even display a touch keyboard above your game for alphabetic input.

This was a delightful book that will help readers understand the finer points of developing games in HTML5’s canvas element. While it doesn’t get you to the point of developing three dimensional blockbuster games inside the browser, it does bite off a very manageable chunk for most readers. And, if you’re a developer looking to get into HTML5 game design, I heavily recommend this text as an introduction."

Link to Original Source
top

Jeremy Hammond of LulzSec Pleads Guilty to Stratfor Attack

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "After facing thirty years to life imprisonment and pleading not guilty to charges last year, Jeremy Hammond has pleaded guilty to his alleged involvement in Anonymous' hacking of Stratfor. The self proclaimed hacktivist member of LulzSec who has compared himself to the late Aaron Swartz explained his reasoning in his plea: "Today I pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This was a very difficult decision. I hope this statement will explain my reasoning. I believe in the power of the truth. In keeping with that, I do not want to hide what I did or to shy away from my actions. This non-cooperating plea agreement frees me to tell the world what I did and why, without exposing any tactics or information to the government and without jeopardizing the lives and well-being of other activists on and offline. During the past 15 months I have been relatively quiet about the specifics of my case as I worked with my lawyers to review the discovery and figure out the best legal strategy. There were numerous problems with the government’s case, including the credibility of FBI informant Hector Monsegur. However, because prosecutors stacked the charges with inflated damages figures, I was looking at a sentencing guideline range of over 30 years if I lost at trial. I have wonderful lawyers and an amazing community of people on the outside who support me. None of that changes the fact that I was likely to lose at trial. But, even if I was found not guilty at trial, the government claimed that there were eight other outstanding indictments against me from jurisdictions scattered throughout the country. If I had won this trial I would likely have been shipped across the country to face new but similar charges in a different district. The process might have repeated indefinitely. Ultimately I decided that the most practical route was to accept this plea with a maximum of a ten year sentence and immunity from prosecution in every federal court. Now that I have pleaded guilty it is a relief to be able to say that I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites. Those others included military and police equipment suppliers, private intelligence and information security firms, and law enforcement agencies. I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right.""
Link to Original Source
top

Aussie Research Shows Windfarm Sickness Spreads by Word of Mouth

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Just like the many stories surrounding alleged "wifi sickness" research is now showing that windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth instead of applying universally to windfarms. Areas that had never had any noise or health complaints were suddenly experiencing them after 2009 when anti-wind groups targeted populations surrounding windfarms. From the article, 'Eighteen reviews of the research literature on wind turbines and health published since 2003 had all reached the broad conclusion that there was very little evidence they were directly harmful to health.' While there's unfortunately no way to prove that someone is lying about how they feel, it's likely a mixture of confirmation bias, psychosomatic response, hypochondria, greed and hatred of seeing windmills on the horizon that drives this phenomenon."
Link to Original Source
top

RSF Calls Out Countries and Mercenaries in Report on Online Spying

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Reporters without Borders has released a report on governments and the companies they employ to spy on their own citizens online. Syria and China were singled out as the worst with Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam not far behind. In addition, RSF named names when it came to the corporate entities (a market worth 5 billion dollars) that provided specific services to these oppressive governments: Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat. The report is aptly titled "Enemies of the Internet" and, though lengthy, provides a detailed examination in the destruction of online rights as well as very specific attacks each government employs. RSF also noted the many attempted solutions to these problems and a link to their online survival kit."
Link to Original Source
top

North Korea Kills Phone Line, 1953 Armistice; Kim Jong Un's Funds Found in China

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Last week, North Korea promised a "preemptive nuclear strike" prior to a UN vote on new sanctions. Despite the threat, the sanctions were unanimously approved. North Korea has responded by killing a Red Cross hotline with Seoul and claims that it has canceled the 1953 Armistice although the UN notes this cannot be done unilaterally (North Korea attempted the same thing in 2003 and 2009). While everyone thought that Kim Jong Un would ride out the sanctions on slush funds, the United States claims to have found his funds in Shanghai and other parts of China totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Beijing has reportedly refused to confiscate these funds despite voting for the very UN resolutions sanctioning North Korea that read: 'More specifically, States are directed to prevent the provision of financial services or the transfer of any financial or other assets or resources, including “bulk cash”, which might be used to evade the sanctions.'"
Link to Original Source
top

China Now Using "State Secrets" Label to Cover Up Polution Records

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "More problems have surfaced as people attempt to bring soil pollution problems to light in China. From the article, 'When Pan sued the Hebei Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, he was given access to the environmental impact assessment that the environment ministry claimed it had done in the village. Pan discovered that the assessment, carried out by the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, had names of people who had left the village two decades previously and even a person who had been dead for two years — all "expressing favor" for the project. Pan surveyed 100 people in his village, showing them the purported environmental impact study. The majority of them gave him written statements that declared: "I've never seen this form," according to documents seen by Reuters.' Reuters has also discovered that China uses "state secrets" labels to hide environmental studies and pollution numbers as well as using strong arm tactics to silence residents attempting to do their own studies."
Link to Original Source
top

Researchers Put Numbers on China's Twitter Censorship

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "One of China's main twitter services used by 30% of all Chinese internet users is called Sina Weibo (weibo is the Chinese word for 'microblog') and something that is quite different from the West's twitter is, of course, the enforced censorship. Researchers at Rice University in Houston have estimated numbers for how censorship works and identifies the "velocity of censorship" in China's microblogging censorship. Most of the posts are marked as "permission denied" between the five minute and ten minute marks after posting. Their research shows that "If an average censor can scan around 50 posts a minute, that would require some 1400 censors at any instant to handle the 70,000 posts pouring in. And if they work 8 hour shifts, that’s a total of 4200 censors on the payroll each day." The research indicates you would need a small army to meet stringent censorship policies when servicing China and to avoid being shutdown like Fanfou (another weibo). Keep in mind that this is not simply identifying keywords and blocking the post based on those words. The researchers noted that a phrase like “Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee” will result in you being unable to submit your post to Sina Weibo. So the research examines the speed of ex post facto censorship which presumably requires an employee or perhaps government employee to identify "non-harmonious" posts based on their intrinsic content."
Link to Original Source
top

Growing Public Unrest Leads China to Admit to "Cancer Villages"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A new report from China's environment ministry has resulted in past due self realizations as well as possible explanations for "cancer villages." The term refers to villages (anywhere from 247 to 400 known villages) that have increased cancer rates due to pollution from nearby factories and industry. It revealed that many harmful chemicals that are prohibited and banned in developed nations are still found in China's water and air. Prior research has shown a direct correlation between industrialization/mining and levels of poisonous heavy metals in water. As a result, an air pollution app has grown in popularity and you can see the pollution from space. And yes, we all share the same planet. China has also released a twelve year plan for environmental protection."
Link to Original Source
top

North Dakota Proposes Ban on Natural Gas Flaring after One Year

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A North Dakota lawmaker has proposed a bill that would ban flaring at oil and natural gas sites after one year of that site's operation. ISS footage has revealed that now large swaths of North Dakota are illuminated at night due simply to flaring from Bakken oil and natural gas drilling. Democratic Sen. Tim Mathern, proposer of the bill, said "It’s bringing a higher quality of life to western North Dakota, it’s putting an end to waste (and) it’s addressing the issue of climate change" and "This is taking a, what I’d call, a step-wise approach in addressing health and waste." In 2011, waste from global flaring equivocated to a fourth of the United State's natural gas consumption. The major difference between this bill and current law is that no exemptions whatsoever will be made. Mathern claimed that 30 percent of natural gas is flared in western North Dakota compared to the national average which is in single digits."
Link to Original Source
top

North Korea Conducts Third Nuclear Bomb Test

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A magnitude 5.1 earthquake was detected and it was confirmed by the DPRK to be a third nuclear test. KCNA news claims that the test was safe and cited the threat of the U.S. for conducting the test saying, 'The test was carried out as part of practical measure of counteraction to defend the country's security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK's legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.' RT is posting a feed of the many condemnations from governments and organizations."
Link to Original Source
top

In 2011, Fracking Was #2 in Causing Greenhouse Gas in US

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "According to Bloomberg, drilling and fracking results in greenhouse gases second only to coal power plants in the United States. From the article, 'Emissions from drilling, including fracking, and leaks from transmission pipes totaled 225 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents during 2011, second only to power plants, which emitted about 10 times that amount.' According to Mother Jones, we now have more giant methane fireballs than any other country in the world and we can now see once dim North Dakota at night from space."
Link to Original Source
top

American Verizon Worker Outsourced His Own Job to China

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "According to the BBC, one Verizon worker took outsourcing to a new level and just decided to pay one fifth of his six digit salary to a Chinese firm to do his job for him. Apparently, by giving his VPN credentials to the Chinese worker(s) replacing himself and sending his physical RSA token to them by way of Fedex, he tripped Verizon's security checks and was discovered by his superiors. What's interesting is that they found "hundreds" of invoices to the firm in Shenyang and suspect this man of being hired across multiple businesses to employ "his" telecommuting software language expertise. From the article, 'The software developer, in his 40s, is thought to have spent his workdays surfing the web, watching cat videos on YouTube and browsing Reddit and eBay.' Everyone can relax, there was no mention of Slashdot."
Link to Original Source
top

Book Review: The Nature of Code

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "I kickstarted a project undertaken by Daniel Shiffman to write a book on what (at the time) seemed to be a very large knowledge space. What resulted is a good book (amazing by CC-BY-NC standards) available in both PDF and HTML versions. In addition to the book he maintains the source code for creating the book and of course the book examples. The Nature of Code starts off swimmingly but remains front heavy with a mere thirty five pages devoted to the final chapter on neural networks. This is an excellent book for Java and Processing developers that want to break into simulation and modeling of well, anything. It probably isn’t a must-have title for very seasoned developers (unless you’ve never done simulation and modeling) but at zero cost why not?

First off, I feel like defining the audience of this book is very important to avoid disappointment. This book is not for someone who’s already developed games or modeled highway traffic or knows how to build their own physics engine. No, this book is geared at the people who are familiar with one language (preferably Java or Processing) and want to get a taste of all of the above. This book is possibly suitable for a someone new to the world of programming who is willing to put in the extra effort of coming up to speed on Processing in tandem with the text. After all, Processing is a comparatively forgiving language with a dead simple API to interact with the mouse and draw/animate objects.

I’d also like to address the “exercises” that are found throughout chapters and at the end of chapters in this book. They are excellent. I picked a couple and invested actual time in fleshing them out and I feel like Shiffman succeeded in inserting a wide range of difficulty. Leading along through each chapter, it is easy to successively complete each new exercise while the end of the chapters present stretch exercises. In addition to that, applicable chapters urge and provoke the reader to utilize newly learned concepts into what Shiffman calls “The Ecosystem Project.” Where the user is basically defining an ecosystem and continually adding new animals, new movement patterns, new behaviors like predation and finally artificial intelligence.

Lastly this book can be found in many formats and I read the first half as HTML with animated diagrams. While the animated diagrams were awesome and added greatly to the text, I still found myself enjoying the dead tree book much more. I know I will soon be a dinosaur with shelves of needless weight that people will mock but I cannot make the jump to reading on a screen. The book’s binding and paper quality is average as it appears to be from Amazon’s CreateSpace. Diagrams that would animate are shown in the book as having progressively darkening shadows of the paths of objects and is fairly easy to envision movement. I did love the HTML version’s moving examples though!

The introduction of this book brings up a few fundamental concepts on randomness like random walks and Perlin noise as well as a bit of statistics. For being labeled “Introduction” this chapter is fundamentally important and the aforementioned concepts are referred back to throughout the rest of the book. The book immediately dives into code snippets of a very simple nature that are easy to run and understand. Great detail and careful explanation are found throughout these opening chapters. The user is given informational boxes going further in depth to certain concepts. This was done really well in the first five or so chapters and was rare if even present in the final chapters.

The first chapter is devoted to vectors. It does an excellent job of explaining why they are so important as well as define and code mathematical concepts that affect vectors. A great aspect of this chapter is that the author fleshes out PVector functionality before your eyes to better understand Processing and object oriented programming. New (to beginners) ways of representing and implementing velocity and acceleration using vectors are explored at their most basic levels.

The second chapter moves naturally enough to forces on objects and begins to delve in basic physics formulas. Newton’s Laws are modeled as well as friction, aerodynamics, fluid dynamics and gravity. Shiffman does a great job of keeping these unruly topics in easy to understand language while at the same time offering the scary looking formulas. He even goes so far as to insert an informational box imploring the reader to not be afraid of scary looking formulas by breaking down friction. I feel like one of the strengths of this book is showing how a complex looking formula can be deconstructed to easy English and then further implemented roughly in a model in Processing. While this modeling is by no means completely accurate or state of the art, it is a good introduction and would likely suffice for simple games and web design.

The third chapter brings angles into the mix by concentrating on oscillations. While it does a great job of talking about the important aspects of trigonometry, the text does really follow through with recalling these concepts. For instance, the mnemonic device SOHCAHTOA from geometry class is briefly explained and subsequently dropped. We use it in later chapters but it is used implicitly and may be difficult for people who are not intimately familiar with it to see the trigonometric reductions employed for simplified coding of the visualizations. Shiffman does an excellent job at starting with something that looks like a complex system, breaking it down to its component vectors and showing incremental changes to the code that iteratively improve on the visualization at hand. In doing so he gives an example of how a modeling programmer should think and work through known physical behavior to derive something that works visually in Processing.

Next up is particle systems. The reader is introduced to simpler ways of maintaining a set of particles as we start to focus on multiple particles with complex interactions. Shiffman opts to keep it simple and shies away from coding aspects like ArrayList versus LinkedList versus HashMap. Instead minimal space is spent on side ventures and the particle systems are surprisingly easy to get off the ground. The user is introduced to polymorphism, inheritance and more advanced class constructs so that the user can reduce the amount of code required to activate, handle and delete heterogenous groups of particles. For a beginning developer this chapter is great at walking them through these more advanced concepts and helping them see a direct benefit to the code.

So far, Introduction through Chapter Four of the book, everything has been great. Shiffman points out that there are a plethora of physics libraries out there in any imaginable language of any imaginable quality. And, consequently, it’s unlikely you’re going to forge forward with the aforementioned concepts and find yourself making the next engine for latest blockbuster space shooter game. As a result, Chapter Five is an overview of how to interact with physics libraries and use your Processing sketch as a facade that just queries said library for position. Box2D is the first library he tackles and with good cause — it’s the same engine used by Angry Birds. And that’s great because it is certainly empowering to know that if you can skin a simple game that adds a few game rules to physics, you can make a billion dollars. I learned a lot from this. I have never interacted with a physics library like this before and it was easy to produce fluid and impressive results. But it felt like glue code and it also felt like this text could be deprecated with a large update to Box2D (or it’s Java and Processing equivalents). This really is a necessary and helpful chapter for this book but I felt sad that we had so quickly given up on rolling our own physics library. After Box2D, Shiffman presents VerletPhysics and provides a helpful resource for when you should use one over the other. Also, the terms for interacting with the libraries are slightly different but represent the same concept (side note: I wasn’t a big fan of the convoluted names these two libraries used to designate objects and object types).

Chapter Six shows the reader how to emulate an autonomous agent by introducing “desired” vectors to each object. In this case it is a race car trying to reach a target. As the object moves, the desired vector is a updated. Examples of code are provided that show the object overshooting its target and Shiffman progresses on his path of slightly improving it by algorithmically adjusting the desired vector by introducing a slowing magnitude upon approach of the target. The actions of the object become more complicated as a flow field is suggested instead for behavior. The author explores path following and how to introduce a bit of wandering around straight line like an ant following a pheromone trail or a person walking along a wall. Simple examples of group behavior like even spacing in a crowded group or flocking in a sparse population within a large space. Lastly this chapter covers a very important aspect of code: performance. By now the reader has seen many examples where code can run slowly and this chapter’s continual pairwise updating of all objects on the screen brings up Big O Notation. I wish Shiffman would spend more time on this or at least provide a separate box with more technical information on it like he did with other concepts.

The seventh chapter takes an interesting turn into cellular automata. While an interesting chapter and an interesting concept, it feels a bit disjoint from the rest of the text. While there is a way to tie it back into the long running ecosystem project. The most important aspect of cellular automata is that they are fun visualizations where as other concepts in programming that revolve around mutating state might not be as readily visible (like finite state machines or Markov models). This is the first chapter that feels a little rushed and more like a brief foray into a potentially deep field. The Game of Life is covered but only in its simplest aspects and I feel like this chapter could be better.

Chapter Eight dives into fractals. Again, like the last chapter, it is a bit short but I enjoyed this chapter. They are a great visual way to introduce newcomers to recursion and get them excited about it. On top of that, Shiffman shows how fractals appear in nature. Koch curves and Sierpinski triangles as fractal visualizations. Shiffman has a great informational box discussing the “monster” curve and tantalizes the reader with the paradox that an infinite recursion of the Koch curve results in an infinitely long line in a finite area of paper. This sort of stuff is what makes reading a book like this enjoyable and drives people to delve deeper into this concepts. I only wish the book had more of this. Also crucial to recursion in this chapter is a processing feature new to me: pushMatrix() and popMatrix(). As these are built out into trees, the author moves on to L-systems as devised by Aristid Lindenmayer. It’s amazing how this simple grammar could result in a simulation of an algal growth.

The ninth chapter helps the user through a high level overview of genetic algorithms. I think one thing this book lacks is caution or warning about jumping into concepts or using concepts just because they sound cool. While genetic algorithms sound cool and futuristic, I have rarely found them to be at all useful on a professional level. Shiffman does a great job of explaining precisely how selection is determined by defining the constraints of the environment as well as the evaluation function. Unfortunately I find that these things are often hard to define and it’s warnings like these that the text lacks. Nevertheless, there are a few good examples picked out for coding — unsurprisingly they use the laws of physics we just discussed and a number of computable variables for valuation. The best example is the rocket ship which is introduced after the standard monkeys trying to type the works of Shakespeare at a typewriter. Shiffman does a great job of explaining genetic algorithms and it’s certainly a neat topic that’s fun to think about but I’m not sure it’s a good practical fundamental aspect of coding. It definitely works for the simulation side of coding so it should stay in the book but again it feels rushed with a lot of the simulation application left to the reader in the ecosystem project. I think that a much longer chapter that models predation — like wolves and rabbits — might work a lot better. You could even tie in a little bit of math and show situations where not enough mutations cause the hunter or prey to settle in on local maximums.

The tenth and final chapter briefly covers neural networks. Again, this chapter felt rushed and was missing a lot of the great explanations that were present in the first half of the book. The scant thirty five pages covers peceptrons, neural networks, training vehicles with them and even backpropagation of multilayered neural networks to hand more complex classification demands. In an effort to give this chapter some fun visualizations, the last thing Shiffman covers is the animation of the operation of a neural network. I’m intimately familiar with all these topics but the pace at which this chapter moves might be too much for a starting developer. I feel like there’s a huge opportunity in this chapter to more thoroughly explain neural networks and to get readers more excited about classification systems in code.

All in all, the book was thoroughly enjoyable and I really enjoy that it is a creative commons work with both a github for the source code and the raw book. Although the latter chapters could use a lot of additional work this book is a great beginning tool for people who wish to start modeling nature in visualizations quickly and easily.

You can purchase a physical copy of The Nature of Code from amazon.com or you can name your price on a PDF directly. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews — to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page."

Link to Original Source

Journals

top

Rhode Island's "Kingdoms of Amular"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 2 years ago There's some ugly drama surrounding the collapse of 38 Studios. That has caused baseball's Curt Schilling to walk away from video games and publicly state that it will end up costing him his fortune. Everyone is in a very bad position right now. 38 Studio's top creditor is the state of Rhode Island. Aside from some stranger assets, there is a partially finished MMO called Project Copernicus as well as the source code and artwork for Kingdoms of Amular. So why doesn't Rhode Island seize this source code and artwork? They could auction it or, better yet, give it to the people who paid for it.

Now we all know this isn't going to happen. The source code will be shelved and it is unlikely it ever contribute to society ever again. The people who coded it have been fired and have moved on to the next thing in their lives while the bankruptcy proceedings play out in the news. But if I fail to repay a loan on a car, repossession services come to take the car. If a studio gets $75 million from a state to make a video game, where are the state's repo men to reclaim the video game?

The current situation is unavoidably bad for everyone involved. Schilling is blaming the governor, developers are moving for the second time in two years, gamers are missing out on the sequel to Amular and money is missing everywhere. But most notably each resident of Rhode Island has paid $75 to the video game industry and will likely never see it returned to their pockets. A coworker who thoroughly enjoys the game said that it's RI's fault for investing in such a fickle and risky industry. Maybe he's right? But the game is reasonably entertaining.

So what could a state do with source code and artwork? The obvious thought would be to auction it off and recoup losses. But what company wants to buy up those assets for more than a pittance compared to the loan? The game didn't sell as well as they thought it would, your developers would have to learn thousands of lines of new code, the artists that could expand the art in the same style are thrown to the wind and there's already a polished title out there. To me, the obvious solution would be to instead package Amular and Copernicus (at least the PC versions) as learning software for high schools and universities in RI. Art students could work on reskinning it, developers could work on just getting it built and Rhode Island would at least be able to show its residents something for which they had paid.

Furthermore if RI really wanted to recoup its losses, they could likely make several million back with a Kickstarter project to open source everything from 38 Studios. The only people who might not like this idea are those in the games industry who claim the MMO and RPG markets are already thoroughly saturated. Perhaps the current publisher and those with distribution contracts of Amular would object. But those executives have already taken the citizens of RI and Curt Schilling for a ride so why should RI care? The only downside would be a massive influx of Amular clones on the PSN, XBLA and PC fronts. But this is an opportunity for gamers, Rhode Islanders and open source in general to expand and set precedence that when a company folds all that hard work and late nights with Mountain Dew and pizza should not be wasted and shelved.

You can tell me that this will never happen -- not with Amular, Copernicus or any of the thousands of titles from failed development studios -- because you're right. It hasn't ever happened and it most likely will not. But Rhode Islanders paid for these titles and the repo men should arrive and bring that back for Rhode Island to decide what to do with it. At least those that have paid for it should be able to decide if what their hard earned money paid for should sit collecting dust or live in immortality.

top

Phygg: Reader Voted Prepublication Academic Papers

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 3 years ago

There's a new site called Phygg.com that is a cross between the arxiv physics feed and Digg.com in that you can read papers up for prepublication and then vote them up or down. I think this poses an interesting new step in peer review and academic journals in that it gives the public a chance to participate in reading and voting on papers. From there, the journals can separate the wheat from the chaff. While it's not exactly innovative (digg + arxiv = phygg), it'll be interesting to see if people take to it and how good the general public will be at reading lengthy physics papers. MIT's Tech Review has a short blog on the launching.

top

Arcade Fire's HTML5 Experience

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 3 years ago There's a neat site for Google Chrome users that shows how artists will be able to liberate themselves from Flash and use HTML5 when the standard is finalized and browser independent (if ever that happens). If you're bored and have five minutes and have speakers/headphones, I hope your childhood address shows enough up on here to make it worth your while. My parent's farmhouse had nothing but my hometown had a couple images that brought me back.

Of course prior to this we would have to use flash to enjoy the Aracade Fire's sites.

Hope someone else enjoys this as much as I do.

top

Futurama is Back!

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago Tonight on Comedy Central, the first two episodes of the sixth season of Futurama were shown. It's been highly anticipated on Slashdot and as a fan I was satisfied with the return to television. I really liked the first episode and found the second episode mediocre.

*Spoiler Alert*

The first episode, Rebirth, had a lot of elements that Futurama episodes of yore contained that made me love it: social commentary, extrapolation of current technology into future technology, apparent deaths, sci-fi twists and a bit of character development. The trivial elements are certainly present like Fry's homeresque stupidity and cheap jokes but that's not something that distinguishes Futurama from other comedies. I think that the professor's quirky inventions and old age behavior remain strong in this series and for some reason never loses its humor with me. The professor can (and often does) invent anything that is necessary for the plot as well as sending the crew anywhere in the universe to deliver a package. Rebirth has a lot of those classic elements when the professor plays god with bringing the crew back to life as well as going to the cyclophage habitat planet to sacrifice Leela. If this sort of predictable formula annoys your or bores you, Futurama probably got old a while ago but for me the high quality of animation, music and voice acting really make willing to belly up for every contrived new world that is conjured. Rebirth also addresses Fry and Leela's loneliness and isolation but has a cheap cop out (the ones in love turn out to be robots) at the end to avoid any permanent character development at the end.

Episode Two, In-a-Gadda-Da-Leela, was less satisfactory for me because it dealt with an old card: Leela engaging in coitus with the Zapper (and his insecurities). While some parts made me smile, it just wasn't as funny or memorable as the older episodes. Some parts had their moments (Obi Wan Kenobi GPS with a different voice saying the wild cards was a favorite) but the overall story and plot didn't really pass muster for me. I enjoyed the cheesy black and white "The Transcredible Exploits of Zap Brannigan" (reminded me of many MST3K episodes) and of course you have to love Zap heavy episodes with his ill formed sentences and logic. But aside from that, we get a cookie cutter invention from the professor and nothing too impressive with the explanation and resolution of the V-Giny death sphere. I think a lot more could have been done with that.

All in all, not bad. I was hoping for more secondary characters that I've loved from the first four episodes like Roberto or Scruffy. These secondary recurring characters have always been a favorite of mine and a strength of the show. I guess I can't expect them to put one in every episode but I was disappointed there weren't a whole lot from the movies and none from these two episodes. Definitely worth my time to watch and for those of you outside the United States, you can find torrents out there online by searching for Futurama S06E01 and S06E02. I hope they make it all the way through this sixth season and I also hope Comedy Central ponies up for a lot more after that. If there's one show with usable potential, it's Futurama and its endless possibilities. I mean with the amount of money being dumped on other crappy shows, you'd think a fraction of that could be afforded for a show with a highly devoted following. Then again Firefly is long gone.

top

Google's Exit Announcement as Covered in China's News

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago When it comes to understanding what the Communist Party of China is thinking, it seems one of the few inputs we have is two of China's state run news sites (their English mouthpieces): China Daily and (the official press agency of the PRC) Xinhua. What follows is a brief news analysis of articles from these two sites over the past two days (note I do not speak Chinese and am therefore only digesting news from China in English).

From an article on the fourteenth Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, is quoted as saying:

"China's Internet is open," said Jiang. "China has tried creating a favorable environment for Internet," said Jiang while responding to a question on Google's possible retreat.

"China welcomes international Internet companies to conduct business within the country according to law," she said. "China's law prohibits cyber crimes including hacker attacks."

And also on that day, they seemed to write off the hacker attacks on Google as a global problem while quoting an unnamed 'senior Chinese information official' (later given only as 'Wang') as saying:

"China's Internet is open to the world.... China is a victim of and firmly opposes cyber attacks," he said, noting the number of overseas cyber attacks on Chinese mainland websites in 2008 had increased by 148 percent over the previous year.

This last article is quite interesting in that it shifts the attention back to pornography and illicit materials, blaming those squarely on other countries. It is assumed this is to reinforce their stated right to enforce censorship on Google. And even placing the onus on other countries to:

"take active and effective measures to strengthen management of the Internet and make sure their problems do not affect other countries' cyber order."

Of course, the China Daily article ends with verbage like 'providing a favorable environment for the healthy development of minors' and calls on the government to 'ensure that information flow on the Internet is smooth and timely, and secure and orderly.'

Now, on to today, the fifteenth of January. It seems the goal here is to deflate the impact that Google's exit would have. China Daily has a story of none other than Steve Ballmer's compliance saying:

"I don't understand how that helps anything. I don't understand how that helps us and I don't understand how that helps China," Ballmer said.

Earlier on Thursday, Ballmer told CNBC Microsoft had no plans to exit China: "We've been quite clear, we're going to operate in China, we're going to abide by the law."

Really, this article is a consolidation of American news reports on Microsoft's plans in China. A clear sign that Microsoft is willing to play ball, why can't Google?

Then later, the Ministry of Commerce attempts to take the wind out of Google's sails by saying that not only have they not heard anything from Google yet but:

"Foreign investors should have confidence in China's market as China has the world's biggest Internet population," said Yao. "Any decision by Google to withdraw from China will not affect Sino-U.S. trade relations."

China Daily also appears to call Google's bluff and curiously offers new quotes from the prior day's briefing with Jian Yu:

"Relevant measures taken by the Chinese government are consistent with international conventions."

China Daily paraphrases experts as saying that the 'government will by no means compromise.' Another news article shows no support from the twenty other victims of the attack (aside from Yahoo, who hasn't been mentioned until now) that Google reported and they wrap that up with concerns that an exit from China will hurt Google's stock.

The best part might be the sour grapes editorial from a reader that claims 'Google.cn simply cannot compete with its main domestic rival, Baidu.com' which is completely true in search. But overlooks the previous day's comments from users as saying they were concerned about their Google mail, their access to Google Maps, Google docs and the slough of other services Google provides aside from search.

All of this sounds like a pretty firm "We're shocked you would consider this and don't understand why you are making such a mistake. We will continue to censor to protect our citizens and will not budge an inch for you. Ball's in your court." Well? Will Google act, stall or fold?

top

Aussie Scientologists Strike Back

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Like a lot of countries, Australia doesn't quite know what to make of Scientologists. Okay, some Aussies just can't stand 'em. Australia's Daily Telegraph sends about an effort called Youth for Human Rights, a thinly veiled Scientologist front launched to teach kids about human rights. So, if L. Ron Hubbard (scifi author and founder of the Church of Scientology) made your list of Human Rights leaders, where would you put him? This "informative" resource puts him ahead of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I little bit of legwork casts more evidence of Youth for Human Rights real motives. With a whois turning up registration at 1332 L Ron Hubbard Way. Are you familiar with that address? Xenu-Directory is. So what's the problem? Well, these videos and booklets are being distributed and aimed at Year 6 students and there's absolutely no indication in the material that this is linked to the Church of Scientology. In fact, a warning has gone out to not use any of these materials inside the classroom. Perhaps Australia's inquiry by Senator Xenu ... I mean Xenophon into the CoS is long overdue and it's time everyone look more closely at their international efforts.

top

The Music Service Oddity that is BlueBeat.com

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago Back in 2007, Slashdot covered a story about Media Rights Technology suing everyone for not implementing DRM. Ha ha, weird right? Okay, fast forward to today and it looks like BlueBeat.com (owned by MRT) is under a lot of fire for selling Beatles tunes and I'll bet EMI is having a field day with that. Most interesting about that is that "The ID3 tags of the Beatles songs sold on BlueBeat.com list âoe2009 BlueBeat.comâ as the copyright holder." Okay, that's another topic entirely.

My question is simple though ... what is going on with BlueBeat.com? BlueBeat offers a large selection of MP3s for 25 cents (only 160 kbps though) and you can stream entire albums as many times as you want on their site. So I began my investigative googling looking for MRT to be owned by someone in Germany or Russia and to be completely illegal in the US. But it seems to be a legit operation out of Santa Cruz, CA. So what gives? I mean, BlueBeat has the same crazy terms of service that iTunes does which they can change at anytime but there are so many things wrong with this picture:

  1. A music service undercutting everyone else by 75%.
  2. A DRM-less product from a company that initially sued everyone for not using DRM -- a company called Media Rights Technology!
  3. You can stream whatever you want from the site, whole albums or songs!
  4. The company doing this is in the United States of America. Where individuals are fined to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for sharing songs. What then, does BlueBeat imagine will happen to them legally?

So what am I missing here? Has MRT lost it? Is this a marketing tactic where they receive a DMCA take down, adhere to it and send e-mails to users asking them to delete their MP3s as their ToS says they can do? And from there just keep hosting songs that labels are too lazy to DMCA away? Something stinks but if you bought 100 songs for 25 dollars from BlueBeat and then kept using them, who would be breaking the law? You or BlueBeat?

top

The Patent Lawsuit Explosion in Eastern Texas

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 5 years ago We've discussed Eastern District of Texas court in more than a few stories about patent cases. To illustrate what kind of problem we're talking about here, a local Legal Journal has given us last week's review of cases filed in regards to patents in Eastern District of Texas.

They include:

  • Aircraft Technical Publishers vs. Avantext Inc. et al which entails 'the reproduction of computer-based information and data concerning the airworthiness requirements and other directives relating to non-commercial aircraft.'
  • Realtime Data LLC dba IXO vs. Morgan Stanley et al which entails 'the rights to four U.S. patents relating to data compression.' (6,624,761, 7,161, 506, 7,400,274, 7,417,568)
  • SFA Systems LLC vs. 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. et al which entails an Integrated Computerized Sales Force Automation System. And how do you infringe on that? 'By making and using supply chain methods, sales methods, sales systems, marketing methods, marketing systems and inventory systems.' SFA claims, "As a result of the above Defendants' infringement of the '525 Patent, SFA has suffered monetary damages ... in an amount not yet determined, and will continue to suffer such monetary damages in the future unless Defendants' infringing activities are permanently enjoined by this court," the complaint states."

Three cases every week should clog up the system. One has to wonder at the number of case titles ending with "et al" and also in relationship to software patents. A patent system that allows patents for data compression combined with Eastern District of Texas Court might be what we need for this powder keg to ignite and the power drunken sot that is the USPTO admit it has a problem.

top

The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago Stanislaw Lem was arguably the greatest non-English science fiction writer before his death three years ago and left behind many science fiction novels with messages of satire and intrigue. The Futurological Congress is no different. The book has several motifs throughout it but I found the most prominent to be that we are living in an increasingly medicated society whereby the future may be wonderfully dystopian--in that the horrors of our existence are simply hidden by drugs on top of drugs on top of drugs. With a movie due out shortly by director Ari Folman, it seems like a good time to revisit this often overlooked short classic sci-fi work.

Our hero and narator, Ijon Tichy should be a familiar name to Lem fans or anyone familiar with Lem's Space Diaries in either English or Polish. Tichy acts as a mechanism of sanity in many of Lem's novels just trying to figure out what the devil is up with a messed up planet he lands on or a particular device/person. By this manner, Lem allows himself much discovery on the reader's behalf and by these means can relay the current state of events to the reader without jarringly interrupting the natural flow of things too much. Through this novel's course of Tichy's discoveries, I was suspended from being disturbed by spoon fed explanations most of the time but the word play that occurred in this particular story got to be a bit much and tedious for a sub-150-page paperback hence a missing point in its score.

Tichy is now a member of the Futurological Association and is invited to attend the Eighth Futurological Congress in Nounas, Costa Rica. From the get go, Lem is full of satire with the immediate lampooning of such self-appointed associations (and maybe even academia) by pointing out that there are two kinds of individuals in these associations: the ones that attend every single meeting/conference and those that don't leave their offices period.

One of the themes throughout the book is a borderline anti-American sentiment about the development of munitions and bombs. I'm familiar with Lem's ability to criticize both sides of the Cold War in a single paragraph although The Futurological Congress seems to focus more heavily on American military and pharmaceutical faults. Lem must have been well aware of kidnappings in Latin America when he wrote this book because that's one aspect he got right about the future of that area. Due to heavy activist presence in Costa Rica trying to capture and ransom Americans, a military attache is accompanying the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica to speak at the congress but in the middle of his speech an unfortunate delegate from India reaches into his breast pocket to grab a handkerchief to wipe his nose. This delegate standing next to Tichy is immediately dispensed with by the bodyguards of the ambassador and, thanks to 'humanitarian ballistics,' Tichy only gets a spattering of blood on him instead of the bullet passing through the target and injuring more people.

Some background on Lem may help you understand this satire. He was born a Catholic Pole with Jewish ancestry and seemed to run the gauntlet of oppression. He survived World War II with fake papers as a mechanic/welder and due to his "bourgeois origin" could not study at the Polytechnic during Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland after the end of the war. He became an Atheist stating, "for moral reasons ... the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created ... intentionally." Knowing this, his satire and bitter critique of all things may not surprise you. On his way to the conference--aside from meeting an orgy of liberated publishers--he encounters an 'anti-papist' who is a Catholic on his way to kill the Pope with a gun of a massive caliber. The anti-papist's surprising motive is none other than The Holy Bible where Abraham is ordered to kill his son Isaac by God. Except that the anti-papist would be killing a father, the most holiest father. And this would be a great personal sacrifice and the "utmost of martyrdom" as the anti-papist "would suffer terrible torment and his soul eternal damnation." Again, Lem predicts today's world, we have no limit of people eager to misinterpret scriptures of any religion.

Back to the conference--since there's 168 attendees from 64 different countries, each person gets four minutes to present their paper. And everyone is only really interested in their own work and telling everyone else about it in a bit of a narcissistic way. This leads the first member to spend his four minutes thusly:

Stan Hazelton from the U.S. Delegation immediately threw the hall into a frenzy by emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11, and therefore 22; 5, 9 hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which it followed that 22 and only 22!! Someone jumped up, saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. I turned to the number key in his paper and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world.

The Futurologists in this novel are probably best described as each one being a less optimistic Ray Kurzweil in that they all seem to be spouting their own version of obstacles humanity is soon to face and consequently their ideas to remedy it. For instance the second delegate from Japan unveils a 10,000:1 model of a housing complex some 800 stories tall with self sustaining everything and mobile in the ocean! It's the future! In fact, everything is recycled! Even the food is recycled waste and excrement from the people. The sausage left out in the hall is actually reconstituted human waste (at which point everyone in the audience stops eating and shuffles the food underneath their seats). This sets the tone for a few of the minor themes of the novel and gives you an idea of how Lem takes subtle jabs at everyone. For example another United States delegate takes the floor to talk about population problems that are rapidly developing. He outlines seven solutions: "mass media and mass arrests, compulsory celibacy, full-sale deeroticization, onanization, sodomization, and for repeated offenders--castration." The book makes other references to population control and one character notes that continuing trends of population would eventually result in human beings exploding outward at the speed of light. Nature is addressed in an equally hilarious means as later in the book all animals have been extinct and replaced with what appear to be better controlled robots.

While in his room, Tichy makes the mistake of drinking the water and discovers that the water is spiked with a powerful hallucinogenic drug. He assumes it's the work of the revolutionaries and decides not to tell anyone but as the violence outside escalates and he mentions it to a fellow futurologist, he discovers that it is the rise of chryptochemocracy! With the hotel's staff, he quickly equips a gas mask as it becomes clear that chemical warfare is afoot ... of a psychedelic nature. Planes are called in equiped with LTN bombs. LTN stands for "Love Thy Neighbor" which is pretty indicative of today's munitions and their goals with surgical strikes. Hilariously enough, the very hotel in which the congress is convening is immediately bombed by mistake.

After pages of chemical warfare that affect the crowd's temperament and counter chemicals that affect the crowd's temperament, Tichy and a friend find oxygen tanks and masks and descend to the sewers where the hotel staff is relaxing comfortably with their own oxygen tanks and masks.

Unfortunately, Tichy and his companion do not have enough oxygen to last the night and therefore must take shifts suffering hallucinations. What follows from this point is a series of hallucinations that Tichy has ending in him coming to in the sewer. Tichy has several of these bizarre hallucinations ending in him being shot by revolutionaries in the sewer. He comes to certain that he is still hallucinating and refuses to believe anyone he is not. As a result, they freeze him until they can find a cure for his mental illness and he is unthawed many years later in a reality where 'psychemicals' keep everyone happy. This overmedicated society disgusts and frightens Tichy at times. It has gotten so bad that a company now exists where you can order a psychem that allows you the satisfaction of doing evil upon another person. Murder's no longer a problem, you just get reanimated. The worst possible offense is using psychems on an individual without their consent.

Tichy attempts to adapt and I couldn't help but be reminded of Fry in Futurama with similar humor employed nearly thirty years before it. As Tichy reconnects with his futurologist friend (people stopped dying as technology caught up a la Kurzweil), he discovers something unsettling about the drugs everyone is taking. He discovers that there's mascons that act as blockers to your senses and replace it with a superficial reality. And we start to understand why everything is so mysteriously idyllic while at the same times animals have been extinct for many years and the planet is at an overburdening 26 billion people. Tichy's friend hands him two vials that will unblock the layers of mascons. You see, the 'architects' of this current psychem reality have patched and repatched side effects of psychems and mascons with more psychems and mascons in the air and water supply! I'll leave The Matrix-like vials and harsh transition from utopia to dystopia for people interested in reading the book.

This book was a joy to read and although the very end is a bit dissatisfying to me, the satire and pessimism inherent to Lem's writings have influenced me and continue to influence me heavily. I like to think that Lem borrowed from sci-fi writers like Philip K. Dick and that other science fiction authors like Douglas Adams have borrowed from Lem despite the language barrier and difference in culture. While Lem may not be the icon that Lovecraft, Clarke and Asimov have become, I certainly hope that people recognize his large corpus of works for more than just Solaris as I've enjoyed many novels by him. Lem offers a rare dark comedy in science fiction with The Futurological Congress.

You can pick up the English version of The Futurological Congress at Amazon . And catch the Ari Folman movie where the present day will be live action while the unfathomable future will be animated to adapt to the stark impossibilities the book portrays.

top

Fan Mail from sstephenson@ecinstall.com

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago Sometimes I get fan mail and sometimes I get really awesome hate mail. Today, a man by the name of Steve Stephenson (also sent from blappo@gmail.com) at www.ecinstall.com decided to send me three pieces of mail despite my lack of response:

Subject: Why must you lie on Slashdot? Or is it that you're stupid?
So, the question is, are you just a REALLY bad reader, or are you that guy who has to lie because intelligent discourse is beyond his intellectual capability?

Subject: God, why are you such a lying piece of shit?
"Excuse me, how did we go from sarcasm and suing: (1) get another job, (2) sue people, or (3) invent some magic spell?" WE didn't, YOU did. WE understood what he meant from the start and didn't have to resort to straw men and lies like you have

Subject: God, you've PROVEN you don't read what you're responding to
HE ALREADY STATED, IN THE POST YOU ARE "REPLYING" TO THAT HE ISN'T PUBLISHED BY OREILLY.

"First, O'Reilly isn't really my publisher"

RIGHT THERE.

How fucking stupid are you?

Yeah, I was wrong, I would like to send my apologies to Steve Stephenson who is employed at ecinstall.com and can be reached at sstephenson@ecinstall.com.

I was confused with his publisher, I am completely straightened out thanks to your extreme language. You, truly, you sir are the epitome of "intelligent discourse" as yo put it. Never have I matched wits with someone so intelligent. I only wish more people like you would send me mail so I could finally decide to stop visiting Slashdot when I am bored.

top

Slashdot Ads Hit an All Time Low

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago It amazes me that Slashdot would allow an ad like this one to run on the front page of Slashdot. You know you're a credible news source when right below your headlines is "Barack the Magic Negro (Offensive?)"

Guess those trolls are willing to pay top dollar to get through to the Slashdot crowd these days. I guess if it pays the bills it's ok.

top

Massive Music Contributions to Wikimedia Commons?

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago I have a large music collection. Well over two thousand compact discs. I have also over the course of many years transferred them to a high quality lossy MP3 format--with impeccable ID3 tags. Given the recent news of Wikipedia preparing for a media explosion, I thought about exercising the fair use doctrine and may begin to methodically upload Ogg snippets of these songs--30 seconds or 10% of the length of the song (which ever is shorter). I could probably divide my music into three groups:

  1. Music with historical significance--a very small group.
  2. Music with no historical significance although popular enough that people may be interested in hearing samples of it--a very very large group.
  3. Music with not only no historical significance but so obscure that no one could ever possibly care--a decent amount (example Zager & Evans' In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) album).

So before I start this endeavor and devote a lot of time to it, I have been trying to find the answers to a few questions you might be able to help me with: Will all of this be torn down? Just from group 3? Just from group 2? Does Wikipedia care about the "encyclopedic worthiness" of audio files? If there is a page for a fairly obscure album like Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team, would they like clips from every track on the album or just the popular tracks like "Huddle Formation?"

All the info I can find out there seems to be photo oriented and revolve around license disputes when marked for deletion ... but I feel I am sitting on a large volume of music and could spend some extra time carefully documenting it on Wikipedia for everyone's benefit. Is it worth my time or will I face an epic culling (like the anima/manga fans) in the future once word gets out about it?

top

Attend Rifftrax Live Online January 15th!

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago For those MST3K fans out there who have adapted to Rifftrax, there is a Rifftrax Live Online Free Event tomorrow in which you can watch the crew riff live. It takes place 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific. Afterward they will take some Q&A live from the audience.

top

Harvard Physicist Explains Lies on Google's Carbon Footprint

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago You might recall the article from Sunday about the cost of Google's search engine on the environment. Well, the physicist that did the original research is revealing that he made no such conclusions in his research. "I have no idea where they got those statistics," he is quoted as saying. This article takes answers from him and Google on the Times Online article that was stretching his research into the realm of fiction.

top

Empirical Data on the "Slashdot Effect"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago You may wonder what exactly happens to a site when Slashdot sends its legions of page requests to it. Well, The Metric System blog has an analysis of what happened on November 6th when they received 31,218 page views. You see the breakdown by site and you also see an increase in traffic by 89,094%. While this may by anecdotal, it's the first time I've seen hard numbers on the Slashdot/Digg effect.

top

Free MP3s From Amazon

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago I hate to sound like an Amazon fanboy ... what with their 1-click patent crap and all ... but if you've read my comments related to anti-DRM you know I love their MP3 service. It's completely DRM-less (unlike Apple's) and has quite the selection. Well, today I discovered that the yet to be released David Byrne & Brian Eno album has a free MP3 listed for download on Amazon.

This excites me as I hope to see all music distributors (labels, retailers, sites, etc) move towards a model similar to that of Afternoon Records site where the artists pick one or two songs from each album to be distributed for free. Although this doesn't satisfy the N'Syncs and Britney Spears of the music world (where one pop single should sell an entire album of 95% filler), it completely draws me into purchasing more and more music from artists that write their own music.

These selections still seem few and far between on Amazon (Brian Setzer, Ted Nugent & The Apples in Stereo are the only others I can find at the moment) but let's hope this spreads.

Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>