Geek Stuff

How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes "Sunday was the birthday of the late great Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and Futurama guest star. With the fifth edition of D&D soon to come out at Gen Con this year, Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, has released a new piece to answer a historical question: how was it, back in 1985, that Gary was ousted from TSR and control of D&D was taken away from him? Drawn from board meeting minutes, stock certificates, letters, and other first-hand sources, it's not a quick read or a very cheery one, but it shows how the greatest success of hobby games of the 1980s fell apart and marginalized its most famous designer."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Submit your application to the Raspberry Pi Education Fund

Raspberry Pi -

Got a great idea or project to teach kids about computing?

Need some help raising the finance to make it a reality ?

We have some good news: the Raspberry Pi Education Fund is finally open for applications. As a reminder, thanks to all the Raspberry Pis bought by the community of the past 2 years, we have been able to put together a £1 million education fund to help fulfil our charitable mission.

Applications are invited from organisations looking to fund projects that encourage young people to learn about computing or illustrate how computing can be used enhance education in STEM or the creative arts.  You can find more details on the eligibility criteria and submit your application here.

Coding Marathon at the Cambridge Centre of Computing History sponsored by Raspberry Pi Foundation

Go on, what are you waiting for? This is your chance to make a difference.

Free Copy of the Sims 2 Contains SecuROM

Slashdot -

dotarray (1747900) writes By now, everybody should know that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Let's apply that to EA, shall we? The publisher is giving away copies of The Sims 2: Ultimate Collection, for free... and not mentioning that it includes the controversial SecuROM anti-piracy software. Nobody likes SecuROM.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Dear Museums: Uploading Your Content To Wikimedia Commons Just Got Easier

Slashdot -

The ed17 (2834807) writes Galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs) are now facing fewer barriers to uploading their content to Wikimedia Commons — the website that stores most of Wikipedia's images and videos. Previously, these institutions had to build customized scripts or be lucky enough to find a Wikimedia volunteer to do the work for them. According to the toolset's coordinator Liam Wyatt, 'this is a giant leap forward in giving GLAMs the agency to share with Commons on their own terms.' The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision has a short article on their use of the new toolkit to upload hundreds of videos of birds. See also the GWToolset project page and documentation on the upload system (includes screencasts). Before the toolset, organizations wishing to donate collections had to write one-off tools to translate between their metadata schema and Wikimedia's schema. The GWToolset allows the organization to generate and upload a single XML file containing metadata (using arbitrary, even mixed, schemas, with some limitations) for all items in a batch upload, prompts for mappings between the vocabulary used by the organization and the vocabulary accepted by Mediawiki, and then pulls the files into the Commons.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








UK Team Claims Breakthrough In Universal Cancer Test

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes UK researchers say they've devised a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose whether people have cancer or not. The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test looks at white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of ultraviolet light (UVA), which is known to damage DNA. The results of the empirical study show a distinction between the damage to the white blood cells from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients. "Whilst the numbers of people we tested are, in epidemiological terms, quite small (208), in molecular epidemiological terms, the results are powerful," said the team's lead researcher. "We've identified significant differences between the healthy volunteers, suspected cancer patients and confirmed cancer patients of mixed ages at a statistically significant level .... This means that the possibility of these results happening by chance is 1 in 1000." The research is published online in the FASEB Journal, the U.S. Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Ask Slashdot: Where Can I Find Resources On Programming For Palm OS 5?

Slashdot -

First time accepted submitter baka_toroi (1194359) writes I got a Tungsten E2 from a friend and I wanted to give it some life by programming for it a little bit. The main problem I'm bumping up against is that HP thought it would be awesome to just shut down every single thing related to Palm OS development. After Googling a lot I found out CodeWarrior was the de facto IDE for Palm OS development... but I was soon disappointed as I learned that Palm moved from the 68K architecture to ARM, and of course, CodeWarrior was just focused on Palm OS 4 development. Now, I realize Palm OS 4 software can be run on Palm OS 5, but I'm looking to use some of the 'newer' APIs. Also, I have the Wi-fi add-on card so I wanted to create something that uses it. I thought what I needed was PODS (Palm OS Development Suite) but not only I can't find it anywhere but also it seems it was deprecated during Palm OS's lifetime. It really doesn't help the fact that I'm a beginner, but I really want to give this platform some life. Any general tip, book, working link or even anecdotes related to all this will be greatly appreciated.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








The Phone Unlocking Victory Should Be the First Step Towards Real Copyright Reform

EFF's Deeplinks -

It's increasingly rare for Congress to actually pass bills into law, but Friday brought some good news from Capitol Hill: More than a year after the exemption covering phone unlocking expired and a White House petition on the topic collected some 114,000 signatures, a narrow bill offering a limited carve-out for consumers unlocking phones made its way to the President's desk to be signed into law.

This is a win for consumers. There was near universal agreement that the restrictions were unreasonable, ranging from a White House statement calling a phone unlocking allowance "common sense," to a partial solution from the FCC, to a Congressional hearing on phone unlocking and the DMCA. EFF worked with a broad coalition of individuals, companies, and public interest groups to convert that common goal into real policy and to keep dangerous language from the House proposal out of the final version of the bill.

But this is also just a tiny step toward what should be the real goal: fundamental reform of the misguided law that is the heart of the problem. The reason the phone unlocking's legality is even unclear is because of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provision that prohibits the circumvention of technical measures that restrict copyrighted content. In the case of phones, that copyrighted content could include the actual software running the phone.

Of course, consumers want to be able to unlock their phones so they can use them with the carrier of their choice, and that has nothing to do with copyright infringement. Enforcing the business models of telephone companies is way out beyond what copyright law is supposed to do. Unfortunately, it's not that unusual an application of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions. In the 16 years since the DMCA became law, it’s done little to hinder infringements but a lot to shut down innovation and free speech.

The safety valve in that section of the DMCA is a rulemaking procedure that takes place every three years, where members of the public can argue for the Librarian of Congress to grant specific exemptions to the law. An exemption for phone unlocking had been granted in the past, but in the 2012 rulemaking, it was only extended for several months until early 2013.

The legislation we passed last week effectively corrects that error, granting an exemption for the remainder of this three-year term. But it does nothing to address the underlying problem: Copyright law is being used to as a tool against competition and innovation. Further, it gives little consolation to others burned by the DMCA's anticircumvention rules.

With the next round of rulemaking expected to take place in the next year, even this narrow victory could be short-lived. The law requires each exemption to be argued from scratch each time, and there's no shortcut process for "renewing" an already granted exemption. Practically speaking, the Librarian of Congress has been given a strong signal from the legislature on the need for a phone unlocking exemption, but there will still be a time-consuming process of formally making the case. The outcome is important, but in many cases that process is a waste of time for everybody involved.

A much better solution would be to reform that section of the law altogether. Even if we cannot come to a compromise that simply strips the anticircumvention rules out of the law, we should be able to condition their application to cases where there might actually be infringement.

Such a solution is possible. The bill that passed last week was only one of several proposed solutions to the phone-unlocking problem. Representative Zoe Lofgren's bill, the Unlocking Technology Act, took this much better fundamental approach. And even with the urgency of phone unlocking off the table, Lofgren's proposal would be an extremely important improvement to a profoundly broken section of copyright law.

This issue, bubbling under the surface for a long time, is increasingly important as more and more of our appliances, devices, and goods could face the phone unlocking problem: if everything's got a layer of copyrighted software, our ability to own and operate the stuff we own can face hurdles from the DMCA. Our right to repair, to tinker, to repurpose, to resell, all are affected.

As in years past, EFF will push for the best possible exemptions in the triennial rulemaking. But it is also increasingly clear that the rulemaking is not a workable “safety valve.” Last week's phone unlocking success was a partial victory, but users deserve more. Whether it comes from Lofgren's Unlocking Technology Act or elsewhere, we will continue to push for that reform.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceDMCADMCA RulemakingInnovationDRM
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Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children

Slashdot -

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Pregnant women who smoke don't just harm the health of their baby—they may actually impair their child's DNA, according to new research. A genetic analysis shows that the children of mothers who smoke harbor far more chemical modifications of their genome — known as epigenetic changes — than kids of non-smoking mothers. Many of these are on genes tied to addiction and fetal development. The finding may explain why the children of smokers continue to suffer health complications later in life.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








OKCupid Experiments on Users Too

Slashdot -

With recent news that Facebook altered users' feeds as part of a psychology experiment, OKCupid has jumped in and noted that they too have altered their algorithms and experimented with their users (some unintentional) and "if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.". Findings include that removing pictures from profiles resulted in deeper conversations, but as soon as the pictures returned appearance took over; personality ratings are highly correlated with appearance ratings (profiles with attractive pictures and no other information still scored as having a great personality); and that suggesting a bad match is a good match causes people to converse nearly as much as ideal matches would.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Samsung Delays Tizen Phone Launch

Slashdot -

New submitter tekxtc (136198) writes Slashdot has reported in the past that a Tizen phone is coming and that the design and photos leaked. But, it has just been announced that the launch of the first Tizen phone has been delayed because of its Tizen's small ecosystem. Should it ever ship? Haven't Android and iOS completely cornered the market? Is there any hope for the likes of Tizen, Firefox OS, and Windows on phones and tablets?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








New Findings On Graphene As a Conductor With IC Components

Slashdot -

ClockEndGooner (1323377) writes Philadelphia's NPR affiliate, WHYY FM, reported today on their Newsworks program that a research team at the University of Pennsylvania have released their preliminary findings on the use of graphene as a conductor in the next generation of computer chips. From the article: "'It's very, very strong mechanically, and it is an excellent electronic material that might be used in future computer chips,' said Charlie Johnson, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. ... Future graphene transistors, Johnson said, are likely to be only tens of atoms across."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








The Misleading Fliers Comcast Used To Kill Off a Local Internet Competitor

Slashdot -

Jason Koebler (3528235) writes In the months and weeks leading up to a referendum vote that would have established a locally owned fiber network in three small Illinois cities, Comcast and SBC (now AT&T) bombarded residents and city council members with disinformation, exaggerations, and outright lies to ensure the measure failed. The series of two-sided postcards painted municipal broadband as a foolhardy endeavor unfit for adults, responsible people, and perhaps as not something a smart woman would do. Municipal fiber was a gamble, a high-wire act, a game, something as "SCARY" as a ghost. Why build a municipal fiber network, one asked, when "internet service [is] already offered by two respectable private businesses?" In the corner, in tiny print, each postcard said "paid for by SBC" or "paid for by Comcast." The postcards are pretty absurd and worth a look.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








NSA Surveillance Chilling Effects: HRW and ACLU Gather More Evidence

EFF's Deeplinks -

Human Rights Watch and the ACLU today published a terrific report documenting the chilling effect on journalists and lawyers from the NSA's surveillance programs entitled: "With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law and American Democracy." The report, which is chock full of evidence about the very real harms caused by the NSA's surveillance programs, is the result of interviews of 92 lawyers and journalists, plus several senior government officials. 

This report adds to the growing body of evidence that the NSA's surveillance programs are causing real harm.  It also links these harms to key parts of both U.S. constitutional and international law, including the right to counsel, the right of access to information, the right of association and the free press. It is a welcome addition to the PEN report detailing the effects on authors, called Chilling Effects: How NSA Surveillance Drives US Writers to Self-Censor and the declarations of 22 of EFF's clients in our First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA case. 

The HRW and ACLU report documents the increasing treatment of journalists and lawyers as legitimate surveillance targets and surveys how they are responding. Brian Ross of ABC says:

There’s something about using elaborate evasion and security techniques that’s offensive to me—that I should have to operate as like a criminal, like a spy.

The report also notes that the government increasingly likens journalists to criminals. As Scott Shane of the New York Times explains:

To compare the exchange of information about sensitive programs between officials and the media, which has gone on for decades, to burglary seems to miss the point. Burglary is not part of a larger set of activities protected by the Constitution, and at the heart of our democracy. Unfortunately, that mindset is sort of the problem.

Especially striking in the report is the disconnect between the real stories of chilling effects from reporters and lawyers and the skeptical, but undocumented, rejections from senior government officials.  The reporters explain difficulties in building trust with their sources and the attorneys echo that with stories about the difficulties building client trust.  The senior government officials, in contrast, just say that they don't believe the journalists and appear to have thought little, if at all about the issues facing lawyers.  

Thanks to ACLU and HRW for adding the important faces of journalists and lawyers to the growing list of people directly harmed by NSA surveillance. 

Related Issues: Free SpeechNSA SpyingRelated Cases: Jewel v. NSAFirst Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
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Lilbits (7-28-2014): Motorola Nexus 6 confirmed?

Liliputing -

Every year Google works with a device maker to offer a new phone for developers and enthusiasts as part of its Nexus lineup. These phones ship with Google’s stock Android software, receive software updates directly from Google, and tend to feature some of the latest tech to showcase exactly what Google thinks an Android phone […]

Lilbits (7-28-2014): Motorola Nexus 6 confirmed? is a post from: Liliputing

A Fictional Compression Metric Moves Into the Real World

Slashdot -

Tekla Perry (3034735) writes The 'Weissman Score' — created for HBO's "Silicon Valley" to add dramatic flair to the show's race to build the best compression algorithm — creates a single score by considering both the compression ratio and the compression speed. While it was created for a TV show, it does really work, and it's quickly migrating into academia. Computer science and engineering students will begin to encounter the Weissman Score in the classroom this fall."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








A Credit Card-Sized, Arduino-Based Game Device (Video)

Slashdot -

Slashdot's Tim Lord was cruising the halls at OSCON, where he spotted Kevin Bates and his tiny Arduino-based device, called the Arduboy. On Kevin's Tindie.com sales page, he says the games it can run include, "Space Rocks, Snake, Flappy Ball, Chess, Breakout, and many more...The most exciting one could be made by you!" || His work with Arduboy got Kevin invited to the recent White House Maker Faire, where he rubbed shoulders (and shot selfies with) Bill Nye the Science Guy, Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, and Arduino creator Massimo Banzi. || Does Kevin have a Kickstarter in the works? There's nothing about Arduboy on Kickstarter.com, and given the Arduboy's simplicity and low price (currently $50), plus stories about it everywhere from Time.com to engadget to Slashdot, he may not need any financing or capital to make his idea succeed. (Alternate Video Link)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale?

Slashdot -

UrsaMajor987 (3604759) writes I have a Asus Transformer tablet that I dropped on the floor. There is no obvious sign of damage but It will no longer boot. Good excuse to get a newer model. I intend to sell it for parts (it comes with an undamaged keyboard) or maybe just toss it. I want to remove all my personal data. I removed the flash memory card but what about the other storage? I know how to wipe a hard drive, but how do you wipe a tablet? If you were feeling especially paranoid, but wanted to keep the hardware intact for the next user, what would you do?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

Slashdot -

Bennett Haselton writes: I can't stand switching from a slideout-keyboard phone to a touchscreen phone, and my own informal online survey found a slight majority of people who prefer slideout keyboards even more than I do. Why will no carrier make them available, at any price, except occasionally as the crummiest low-end phones in the store? Bennett's been asking around, of store managers and users, and arrives at even more perplexing questions. Read on, below.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








TouchPico: Pocket-sized device projects Android onto any wall (crowdfunding)

Liliputing -

Looking for a portable projector that lets you stream videos, PowerPoint presentations, or other content onto a wall… without connecting to a computer? TouchPico is a tiny projector that runs Google Android, allowing you to project just about anything that you’d see on your phone onto a screen or wall. It can beam an 80 inch […]

TouchPico: Pocket-sized device projects Android onto any wall (crowdfunding) is a post from: Liliputing

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