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How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

SlashDot - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 07:06
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."

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Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 19:00
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.

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OKCupid Experiments on Users Too

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 18:15
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.

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Samsung Delays Tizen Phone Launch

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 17:33
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 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?

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

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 14:50
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)

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Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale?

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 14:07
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?

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Oracle Offers Custom Intel Chips and Unanticipated Costs

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 11:22
jfruh (300774) writes "For some time, Intel has been offering custom-tweaked chips to big customers. While most of the companies that have taken them up on this offer, like Facebook and eBay, put the chips into servers meant for internal use, Oracle will now be selling systems running on custom Xeons directly to end users. Those customers need to be careful about how they configure those systems, though: in the new Oracle 12c, the in-memory database option, which costs $23,000 per processor, is turned on by default."

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Attackers Install DDoS Bots On Amazon Cloud

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 10:40
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Attackers are exploiting a vulnerability in distributed search engine software Elasticsearch to install DDoS malware on Amazon and possibly other cloud servers. Last week security researchers from Kaspersky Lab found new variants of Mayday, a Trojan program for Linux that's used to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The malware supports several DDoS techniques, including DNS amplification. One of the new Mayday variants was found running on compromised Amazon EC2 server instances, but this is not the only platform being misused, said Kaspersky Lab researcher Kurt Baumgartner Friday in a blog post."

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Microsoft's Nokia Plans Come Into Better Focus

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 04:51
Forbes has an update on what sort of future Nokia faces, as Microsoft reveals a strategy for making sense of the acquisition: [Microsoft EVP of devices Stephen] Elop laid out a framework for cost cuts in a memo to employees on July 17. Devices would focus on high and low cost Windows smartphones, suggesting a phasing out of feature phones and Android smartphones. Two business units, smart devices and mobile phones, would become one, thereby cutting overlap and overhead. Microsoft would reduce engineering in Beijing and San Diego and unwind engineering in Oulu, Finland. It would exit manufacturing in Komarom, Hungary; shift to lower cost areas like Manaus, Brazil and Reynosa, Mexico; and reduce manufacturing in Beijing and Dongguan, China. Also, CEO Satya Nadella gave hints about how Microsoft will make money on Nokia during Tuesday' conference call. Devices, he said, "go beyond" hardware and are about productivity. "I can take my Office Lens App, use the camera on the phone, take a picture of anything, and have it automatically OCR recognized and into OneNote in searchable fashion. There is a lot we can do with phones by broadly thinking about productivity." In other words, the sale of a smartphone is a means to other sales.

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How Bird Flocks Resemble Liquid Helium

SlashDot - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 02:33
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A flock of starlings flies as one, a spectacular display in which each bird flits about as if in a well-choreographed dance. Everyone seems to know exactly when and where to turn. Now, for the first time, researchers have measured how that knowledge moves through the flock—a behavior that mirrors certain quantum phenomena of liquid helium. Some of the more interesting findings: Tracking data showed that the message for a flock to turn started from a handful of birds and swept through the flock at a constant speed between 20 and 40 meters per second. That means that for a group of 400 birds, it takes just a little more than a half-second for the whole flock to turn."

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Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut

SlashDot - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 19:35
A newly discovered virus has been found by a San Diego State University team to live inside more than half of all human gut cells sampled. Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage - a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect - some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent. [Study lead Dr. Robert] Edwards said: "In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. "They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species." According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts. National Geographic gives some idea why a virus so common in our gut should have evaded discovery for so long, but at least CrAssphage finally has a Wikipedia page of its own.

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Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission

SlashDot - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 18:06
Space.com gives an overview of the training that four astronauts are undergoing over 9 days submerged off the coast of Florida near Key Largo. The training mission, dubbed NEEMO 18, is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. In addition to the complications of working outside their school-bus sized habitat while awkwardly suited up in a low-gravity (or at least high buoyancy) environment, their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission. The experiments astronauts are doing during the mission, which began Monday (July 21), range from the physical to the behavioral. For example, each of the crew members sports a sensor that records how close the crew members work with each other inside the school-bus-size habitat. ... Communications with NEEMO Mission Control is usually constant, and there is the ability to send items to and from the habitat as needed. Also living inside the habitat are two support staff who are assisting with Aquarius maintenance and systems, as required. The crew members also have Internet and phone service to talk with family and friends.

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Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

SlashDot - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 17:04
jrepin (667425) writes "The government of the autonomous region of Valencia (Spain) earlier this month made available the next version of Lliurex, a customisation of the Edubuntu Linux distribution. The distro is used on over 110,000 PCs in schools in the Valencia region, saving some 36 million euro over the past nine years, the government says." I'd lke to see more efforts like this in the U.S.; if mega school districts are paying for computers, I'd rather they at least support open source development as a consequence.

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A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

SlashDot - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 16:10
An anonymous reader writes with a link to an intriguing device highlighted at Hackaday (it's an Indiegogo project, too, if it excites you $90 worth, and seems well on its way to meeting its modest goal): The DPT Board is something that may be of interest to anyone looking to hack up a router for their own connected project or IoT implementation: hardware based on a fairly standard router, loaded up with OpenWRT, with a ton of I/O to connect to anything. It's called the DPT Board, and it's basically an hugely improved version of the off-the-shelf routers you can pick up through the usual channels. On board are 20 GPIOs, USB host, 16MB Flash, 64MB RAM, two Ethernet ports, on-board 802.11n and a USB host port. This small system on board is pre-installed with OpenWRT, making it relatively easy to connect this small router-like device to LED strips, sensors, or whatever other project you have in mind.

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Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

SlashDot - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 10:33
hweimer (709734) writes "German long jumper Markus Rehm has written sports history yesterday, becoming the first disabled athlete to win a national able-bodied championship. His jump to 8.24 meters put him on the 9th place of the current season rankings and make him egligible to compete in the upcoming European championships, further sparking the debate whether his prosthetic leg provides him with an unfair advantage."

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Apple Acquires "Pandora For Books" Booklamp For $15 Million

SlashDot - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 14:28
Nate the greatest (2261802) writes with news made public Friday that Apple has acquired a little known ebook company called Booklamp, a small Idaho-based ebook startup which is best known for the Book Genome Project. First shown off to the world in 2008, this project was conceived by Booklamp founder and CEO Aaron Stanton as a way of analyzing a book's pacing, dialog, perspective, genre, and other details in order to identify a book's unique DNA. Booklamp has been using the tech to sell various services to publishers, tech companies, and the like, but Booklamps's existing contracts were apparently cancelled earlier this year. According to one industry insider the deal happened in April, but Apple managed to keep the news under wraps until just last night. No one knows for sure how Apple will use booklamp but there is speculation that Apple could launch an ebook subscription service similar to the week-old Kindle Unlimited, or they could just use Booklamp to drive ebook recommendations in what some are speculating is the world's second largest ebookstore.

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AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8%

SlashDot - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 13:20
theodp (442580) writes "Code.org reports that preliminary data on students who took the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Exam in 2014 show an increase of 8,276 students over 2013 and represent what the College Board called "the first real indication of progress in AP CS enrollment for women and underserved minorities in years." Girls made up 20% of the 39,393 total test takers, compared to 18.7% of the 31,117 test takers in 2013. Black or African American students saw their share increase by 0.19%, from 3.56% to 3.75% (low, but good enough to crush Twitter). Code.org credits the increased enrollment to its celebrity-studded CS promo film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg ("I even made a personal bet (reflected in my contractual commitment to Code.org donors) that our video could help improve the seemingly immovable diversity numbers in computer science," Code.org founder Hadi Partovi notes). However, some of the increase is likely attributable to the other efforts of Code.org's donors. Microsoft ramped up its TEALS AP CS program in 2013-2014, and — more significantly — Google helped boost AP CS study not only through its CS4HS program, but also by funding the College Board's AP STEM Access program, which offered $5 million to schools and teachers to encourage minority and female students to enroll in AP STEM courses. This summer, explains the College Board, "All AP STEM teachers in the participating schools (not just the new AP STEM teachers), who increase diversity in their class, receive a [$100] DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student in the course who receives a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Exam." The bad news for AP CS teachers anticipating Google "Excellence Funding" bounties (for increasing course enrollment and completion "by at least five underrepresented students") is that AP CS pass rates decreased to 60.8% in 2014 (from 67.6% in 2013), according to Total Registration. Using these figures and a back-of-the-envelope calculation, while enrollment saw a 26.6% increase over last year, the total number of students passing increased by 13.9%."

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Household Robot Jibo Nets Over $1 Million On Indiegogo

SlashDot - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 10:22
mikejuk (1801200) writes After seven days the Jibo project has over $1.1 million. What is surprising is that Jibo isn't a complex piece of hardware that will do the dishes and pick up clothes. It doesn't move around at all. It just sits and interacts with the family using a camera, microphones and a voice. It is a social robot, the speciality of the founder, MIT's, Cynthia Breazeal. The idea is that this robot will be your friend, take photos, remind you of appointments, order takeaway and tell the kids a story. If you watch the promo video then you can't help but think that this is all too polished and the real thing will fall flat on its face when delivered. If it does work then worry about the hundreds of kids needing psychiatric counselling — shades of Robbie in I, Robot. Even if it is hopelessly hyped — there is a development system and I want one. It is the early days of the home computer all over again.

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Private Data On iOS Devices Not So Private After All

SlashDot - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 09:24
theshowmecanuck (703852) writes with this excerpt from Reuters summarizing the upshot of a talk that Jonathan Zdziarski gave at last weekend's HOPE conference: Personal data including text messages, contact lists and photos can be extracted from iPhones through previously unpublicized techniques by Apple Inc employees, the company acknowledged this week. The same techniques to circumvent backup encryption could be used by law enforcement or others with access to the 'trusted' computers to which the devices have been connected, according to the security expert who prompted Apple's admission. Users are not notified that the services are running and cannot disable them, Zdziarski said. There is no way for iPhone users to know what computers have previously been granted trusted status via the backup process or block future connections. If you'd rather watch and listen, Zdziarski has posted a video showing how it's done.

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The Truth About Solar Storms

SlashDot - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 18:27
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran a story about a very large solar flare two years ago that missed Earth, but not by too much. From a scientific point of view, what is it that happens when a solar flare interacts with Earth, and what are the potential dangers to both humans and humanities infrastructure? A very good overview, complete with what you can do — as both an individual and a power company — to minimize the risk and the damage when the big one comes. Unlike asteroids, these events happen every few centuries, and in our age of electronics, would now create a legitimate disaster.

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