The BBC News asks:
Storming through forests astride dragons, commanding armies of vicious Cossacks, flying spaceships at unthinkable speeds the possibilities are endless. Computer games can transport you anywhere and let you do anything.
So, when you can dine out cheaply and conveniently on the most excitement-filled, exhilarating scenarios imaginable, doesn't it seem strange that many choose repetition, rigmarole and meticulous control for their digital fixes?
Whether it is managing a campsite, driving a long-haul lorry, mending a car or working a rubbish lorry, more and more people are passionately playing simulator games that accurately replicate everyday life.
But who is it that plays these games? And what makes people play them when you could just do the real thing?
In addition to interviewing five gamers, tidbits include:
10 simulator games to note:
- Euro Truck Simulator 2 Drive long-haul vehicles. Hugely popular and PC Gamers' Sim of the Year in 2012
- Camping Manager Build and manage your own vacation paradise
- Bear Simulator Still in development, the game will allow players to forage and explore the forest as a bear
- Microsoft Flight Simulator Perhaps the best-known of all the vehicle simulator game series
- Farming Simulator Cultivate land and livestock and manage your farm. Outsold Medal Of Honor in 2013
- Street Cleaning Simulator 2013 Remove dirt from roads with several different cleaning techniques
- U-Bahn Simulator Navigate Germany's metro systems
- Arma 3 Experience the realities of a military campaign
- Vatsim A flight simulator where live air traffic controllers will book your ultra-realistic flight paths
- Viscera Cleanup Detail Clear up the gore from first-person shooter games
And if that's too racy for you, there's always Cow Clicker.
Since 2006, three bowling ball-sized, free-flying "Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites" (SPHERES) have been floating around the International Space Station. Now, they are attaching a smartphone to the spheres, making them "Smart SPHERES": a more "intelligent" free-flying robot with built-in cameras to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, powerful computing units to make calculations, and Wi-Fi connections to transfer data in real time to the computers aboard the space station and then to mission control in Houston.
In a two-phase experiment, astronauts will manually use the smartphones to collect visual data using the integrated custom 3-D sensor to generate a full 3-D model of their environment. After the map and its coordinate system are developed, a second activity will involve the smartphones attached to the SPHERES, becoming the free-flying Smart SPHERES. As the free-flying robots move around the space station from waypoint to waypoint, utilizing the 3-D map, they will provide situational awareness to crewmembers inside the station and flight controllers in mission control. These experiments allow NASA to test vision-based navigation in a very small mobile product.
"NASA uses robots for research and mission operations; just think about the rovers on Mars or the robotic arm on the ISS or space shuttle," said Chris Provencher, manager of the Smart SPHERES project. "Inside the ISS space is limited, so it's really exciting to see technology has advanced enough for us to demonstrate the use of small, mobile robots to enhance future exploration missions."
Ultimately it is the hope of researchers that these devices will perform housekeeping-type tasks, such as video surveys for safety and configuration audits, noise level measurements, air flow measurements, and air quality measurements, that will offset work the astronauts currently perform.
from the How-the-Other-Half-Lives dept.
The Center for American Progress reports
Since he began his minimum wage challenge on Sunday, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, now president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, has had eggs and toast, a bowl of cereal with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a banana. On Monday, he came to work with a bologna and cheese sandwich and a banana. "I'm not sure what I'm going to have for supper," he told ThinkProgress.
This is not a typical menu for him. But given that he can only spend $77 a week while he's taking the challenge, which asks lawmakers to live on a typical full-time minimum wage minus average taxes and housing expenses for a week, he has to "be sensitive about everything that I buy." Eggs are fairly cheap, he reasoned, and "I have found out that bananas don't cost a whole lot, so I stocked up on bananas." He hasn't eaten any other fruits or salads because they're too expensive. For the remaining five days of his challenge, "I don't think I'll be eating very healthy," he said. "Bologna's a lot cheaper than ham. I've been eating [quite] a bit of bread."
He came down with a cold but was lucky enough to find Tylenol and Afrin nasal spray in his cabinet already. "I don't think I would have been able to buy that Afrin nasal spray" on the challenge, he noted. "I never think about what medicine costs if i need it... But some people have to think constantly about how they spend their money, and their quality of life is quite different than mine."
Strickland will be joined by some current lawmakers this week, including Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL), Tim Ryan (OH), and Keith Ellison (MN)
The hope is that those who take the challenge get a taste of what life is like on a low wage, even if it's temporary and they can go back to their normal lifestyles after a week. "I think it's important for those of us in these leadership positions that get elected by our constituents to represent their views from time to time to take a challenge such as this," Rep. Ryan said on the call, "to make sure we really are not just understanding this in an intellectual way but really understand the deep challenges that people face." It's meant to "bring awareness to this issue," he said.
If you're going to San Diego Comic-Con, you'll want to pull on your Batman mask or slather on the Sith paint if you're passing any of the marked locations on this new map. You could very well be under surveillance as part of the San Diego Police Department's "Operation Secure San Diego."
Operation Secure San Diego--ostensibly intended so first responders could get a view of a crime as it's happening--encourages private businesses to allow the cops to access their surveillance video cameras. It also gives officers sitting in their squad cars the power to tap directly into live feeds. The first to share its streams was Hotel Indigo, a hotel popular with the Comic-Con set in San Diego's Gaslamp district.
Whether you're a resident or tourist, Operation Secure San Diego should make you a little nervous.
The Hong Kong Standard reports that the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has a team, that was sponsored by UC RUSAL - the leading global aluminum producer from Russia - that has come up with what they call: Fiber Reinforced Aluminium.
Raw material quality is said to be a factor in manufacturing process according to Ben Chan Yui-bun but the announcement continues:
Using chemical deposits from petroleum gas and chloride, a "chemical vapor deposit" technique is used to vaporize the carbon nano fiber. This allows for nickel ions to attach to the fiber.
The fiber with ions is then processed with the aluminum in a nitrogen-filled environment, enabling materials to integrate without glue. This process cuts costs because the raw materials used are cheaper than the glue, Chan said. He also said the new composite is expected to be at least 30 percent stronger than regular aluminum.
The report and the HKUST's press release is scant on details regarding the new composite material's performance other than stating that it can replace concrete or steel and be used in other applications like bicycles and iPads.
The conservative small government movement has gained momentum based on the principle that decisions are best made at a local level, because people know what they want better than the federal government does. So why is a contingent of small government-minded congressional representatives trying to dick over local governments when it comes to high-speed internet access?
I live in Chattanooga. I have their gigabit internet. It is great, but it could be better officially let us run servers, officially let us run open wifi ala openwireless.org (I do it anyway, but if they come knocking I'll have to turn it off), even better would be if they let other ISPs run on top of their fiber plant and compete with each other. Still, it is at least as good as google fiber for the same price or less (except for no $300 flat-fee low-bandwidth option).
[Editor's Note] For the non-Americans in our readership, this appears to be nothing more than the usual Rep/Dem disagreement depending on which 'big business' funded the most to the appropriate campaign coffers. I would have to agree that the pricing seems expensive but, as we know, that is caused more by the regional monopolies than the actual cost of provision.
The Center for American Progress reports:
Man Remains Alive Nearly 2 Hours After Injection
Using an unusual concoction of drugs this afternoon, Arizona attempted to execute a man on death row. One hour after he was supposed to have been lethally injected, however, Joseph Rudolph Wood was still alive, "gasping and snoring." Wood's lawyers filed an emergency request to stay the execution and give the man life-saving help, but it was too late: After two hours, he died.
Cockroaches are some of the most resilient creatures on earth. They can live for 45 minutes without air and over a month without food. Cutting their heads off won't even kill them ( http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-cockroach-can-live-without-head/ )-at least not immediately. Their bodies can live on for several days without their heads.
At technology giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, engineers have pioneered techniques that help make their websites just as hard to kill. If a server goes on the fritz, a series of servers shut down, or even an entire data center goes dark, these sites are supposed to just keep chugging along. That's vitally important since every second of downtime means lost revenue.
Now, a team of open source developers ( Ex-Googlers ) wants to make it easier for just about any company to build the sort of resilient cloud computing systems that run online empires like Google. They call their project CockroachDB (github source: https://github.com/cockroachdb/cockroach), billing it as a database with some serious staying power. That may sound like an odd name for a piece of software, but co-creator Spencer Kimball-a former Google engineer-says it's only appropriate. "The name is representative of its two most important qualities: survivability, of course, and the ability to spread to the available hardware in an almost autonomous sense."
Related: Inside Google Spanner, the Largest Single Database on Earth http://www.wired.com/2012/11/google-spanner-time/all/
How would you like to own a personal assistant robot for only $499? Jibo, which almost look like Eve from Wall-E, is an eleven-inch tall, six-pound robot that can be your photographer when you have a party at home, read stories to your children, order you a pizza, or shop online. And more is possible as it learns and adapts to your needs. The project has received huge support with now almost $1 million funding from the public through Indiegogo, way ahead of its original goal of $100,000. It may take awhile before we see the arrival of this little android. It will start to be shipped starting fall of 2015.
Wired reports that:
They built their anti-hacking device for $150 in parts: an mbed NXP micro controller and a simple board. This plugs into a jack underneath a car or truck's dashboard known as the OBD2 port. Power it on for a minute during routine driving, and it captures the vehicle's typical data patterns. Then switch it into detection mode to monitor for anomalies like an unusual flood of signals or a command that should be sent when the car is parked but shows up when you're instead doing 80 on the highway.
If it spots mischief, the device puts the car into what Miller and Valasek call "limp mode," essentially shutting down its network and disabling higher-level functions like power steering and lane assist until the vehicle restarts. "You just plug it in, it learns, then it stops attacks," says Valasek, the director of vehicle security research at security consultancy IOActive.
Miller and Valasek's gadget may raise fears about false positives that could mistakenly disable your car's computers during rush hour. But in their tests, they say it hasn't misinterpreted any innocent signals in the car's networks as attacks. That's in part, they say, because a car's digital communications are far more predictable than those of a typical computer network. "It's just machines talking to machines," says Valasek. "In the automotive world, the traffic is so normalized that it's very obvious when something happens that's not supposed to happen."
The inventors claim it defeats all previous CANBus attacks. However, when you've got no authentication, no encryption and no source address in your "trusted" network, defense seems like a losing battle.
Nature reports that:
For decades, Europe and the United States have led the way when it comes to high-energy particle colliders. But a proposal by China that is quietly gathering momentum has raised the possibility that the country could soon position itself at the forefront of particle physics.
Scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing, working with international collaborators, are planning to build a 'Higgs factory' by 2028 a 52-kilometre underground ring that would smash together electrons and positrons. Collisions of these fundamental particles would allow the Higgs boson to be studied with greater precision than at the much smaller Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe's particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.
Physicists say that the proposed US$3-billion machine is within technological grasp and is considered conservative in scope and cost. But China hopes that it would also be a stepping stone to a next-generation collider a super proton-proton collider in the same tunnel.
European and US teams have both shown interest in building their own super collider (see Nature 503, 177; 2013), but the huge amount of research needed before such a machine could be built means that the earliest date either can aim for is 2035. China would like to build its electron-positron collider in the meantime, unaided by international funding if needs be, and follow it up as fast as technologically possible with the super proton collider. Because only one super collider is likely to be built, China's momentum puts it firmly in the driving seat.
A Chinese town has been sealed off and 151 people placed in quarantine since last week after a man died of bubonic plague, state media said Tuesday.
The 30,000 people living in Yumen in the northwestern province of Gansu are not being allowed to leave, and police at roadblocks on its perimeter are telling motorists to find alternative routes, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said.
Other reports said that earlier this month the 38-year-old victim had found a dead marmot, a small furry animal which lives on grasslands and is related to the squirrel.
He chopped it up to feed his dog but developed a fever the same day. He was taken to hospital after his condition worsened and died last Wednesday."
Sunswift, a solar car racing team from the University of New South Wales, has today broken an electric car world record that has stood since 1988. The record, overseen by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), measures the average speed of an electric vehicle over a 500km distance on a single charge.
The record breaking vehicle is Sunswift's fifth car, the Sunswift eVe. The vehicle previously ran in the 2013 World Solar Challenge, a 3,000km solar car race in Australia that runs from Darwin to Adelaide. The car has a top speed of 140kph with an electric-only range of approximately 500km, or up to 800km when its solar cells are also active - all while using about as much power as a kitchen toaster when travelling at freeway speeds. The solar system was turned off to adhere to the electric car specific record attempt.
Sunswift smashed the existing record of 73 kilometres per hour, achieving a final new record of over 100kph with a final official result awaiting confirmation with the FIA.
The Channel (at El Reg) reports Apple employees have now been granted a class action lawsuit against their employers.
from TFA "The lawsuit (PDF), originally filed in 2011 by former Apple retail and corporate staff, claims that managers routinely forced them to work more than five hours without a break and, when they did so, withheld wages that were promised to make up for working the extra hours."
The rest breaks are mandated by California Labor Code 226.7 and the four plaintiffs say that because they had to punch in and out of work there is a clear paper trail to support their case.
In addition, the four claim that after they quit Apple the firm withheld their pay checks for periods ranging from a few days to weeks. This too is against California law.
The Register has a report claiming that it is small and medium sized businesses that create jobs. While that is too sweeping a generalisation, it points out the problems regarding layoffs from both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard because, the article claims, they have lost their way. From the article:
The recent news of layoffs from computing giants provides proof, once again, of an old economic saw. It's not actually big businesses that create jobs, it's the small and new ones that do.
Our problem is that we've a political class (yes, all of it) that doesn't really quite get this. They would like there to be lots of jobs, of course, but they think that the way to get them is to suck up to to give privileges to large extant employers instead of the people who actually do create jobs.
Microsoft is laying off 18,000 because they're not sure what they should be doing (other than indulging in corporate doubletalk that is). HP is going to lay off even more people because, err, they don't know what they should be doing either. And all of this really shouldn't be a surprise to observers of the scene economic. We expect big business to continually be shrinking its workforce. Perhaps not with quite this sort of vehemence but over time it's the standard assumption.
Each year the UK economy destroys some 3 million jobs. Yes, really, 10% of all jobs disappear each year. Some of this is bankruptcy of firms, some of it is technological advance (to the extent that the first isn't caused by the second). Each year the UK economy also creates some 3 million jobs. The change in unemployment is the balance between those destroyed and created numbers and what happens in recessions isn't that, particularly, more people get fired or more companies go bankrupt. It's that many fewer new firms start up, many fewer small ones expand. And it's that which produces the imbalance that leads to higher unemployment rolls. Not a greater destruction of extant jobs, but an absence of job creation.
While this might not seem to ring true to the many that are currently out of work and struggling to get by, the article does give more explanation and provides much food for thought. What do you Soylentils think?