At least, that's the greeting I now expect to see whenever I fire up a page on SourceForge. And before you ask, no, the Wachowski brothers haven't bought the rights to the Web site. The open source software world is huge--billions of dollars huge--but trying to figure out its breadth makes me think of The Matrix. Or, at least, a construct of Matrix-like proportions.
Amazingly enough, a company called Black Duck Software has taken on the task of creating a complete and compelling picture of open source software development. And I'm not just talking about a simple Linux survey or two. Black Duck has used everything from the largest of the open-source operating systems to the smallest of massively-multiplayer frameworks to develop an epic valuation of open-source software. It's been running these numbers and scanning for projects since the company's founding in 2002, if that helps you to visualize just how deep the rabbit hole gets.
And what have they found? Enough code, representing enough cash, to create a little Matrix of your very own. Jack in, click the jump, and I'll tell you just how much that is.
In an understandably controversial move, Konami and Atomic Games recently demonstrated their upcoming “realistic” shooter, Six Days in Fallujah. The game – apparently supervised by the hardened eyes of soldiers who actually fought the debatably good fight – will focus primarily on the Second Battle of Fallujah. And as much as I enjoy the beautifully orchestrated, occasionally tear-jerking fictional plots of games like Call of Duty 4 and Brothers in Arms, I think Konami’s bold leap is a necessary one.
There’s just one problem, though: They’re doing it wrong.
Many publications were recently invited into the trenches of the still deep-in-development title, and – as many dejected “first impressions” articles can attest – Fallujah’s gameplay’s paradoxical lack of realism stands out like, well, Rambo in a shootout. Take this bit, for instance:
“In another clip, the player broke off from his squad, crouched up behind two insurgents who were firing on US soldiers, and took them out from a few feet away like some kind of renegade commando. I may be ignorant of this particular battle, but I've certainly never heard of any Army ninjas breaking off from their squads and capping insurgents solo. Maybe something like that has happened once or twice; either way, the videogamey nature of the moment seemed entirely out of place,” said Shacknews reporter Nick Breckon.
Continue reading to find out why Six Days in Fallujah is in such a schizophrenic state, and how we can salvage it.
Usually, I don’t write about Google, because googling it is so hard. But ambiguity isn’t enough to thwart my interest in Google’s recent movement in the world of books. Google Books (originally Google Print) has come to a settlement with publishers that will, in essence, make it the default collecting society for out-of-copyright books—with no congressional oversight.
It’s the result of 1337 legal hacking. In 2004 Google announced plans to scan in-copyright books that were part of university holdings, something no other book scanner had talked about doing. In 2005 the publishers and authors sued Google in a move that sent waves of not shocked at all through the copyright community. It was closely watched by sad copyright wonks (moi) as possibly defining fair use online.
Google skipped all that and instead suggested amassing a library no one could duplicate and selling the books. The publishers went along for a cut of the action. Thing is, because Google settled, it’s a deal only Google gets.
[Note: This edition of Fast Forward was originally published in our February 2009 issue]
No doubt you’ve heard that analog TV in the U.S. goes off the air on February 17, replaced by digital TV. If you haven’t heard, you must be in a coma. Four times as much money has been spent to prepare Americans for this transition as the U.S. government spends on adult education each year. Who says politicians can’t get their priorities straight?
I’m dreading the switch. I’m a diehard who still plays vinyl records, subscribes to a daily newspaper, and snatches free TV from the ether with rabbit ears. And I’m not alone. Thirteen percent of U.S. households still depend on TV antennas.
Although the DTV transition won’t affect people who have cable or satellite TV, it does reveal an inherent flaw of digital technology. This flaw afflicts almost all digital media, including the digital photos you take, the digital video you record, and the digital music you download. Digital data can be rendered useless by minor damage that wouldn’t matter if the media were in analog form.
At my home, for example, DTV is a bust. NBC is the only network my indoor antenna can receive. CBS, ABC, and PBS are dead air. Yet my antenna points toward the region’s largest hilltop broadcast tower, just 10 miles away. For years I’ve received analog TV that’s a little snowy but quite watchable.
The problem is that DTV signals are typical of digital media.
I was somewhere in the second location of Tomb Raider: Underworld. There was a jump that needed to be made—there’s always a jump that needs to be made—and every time I tried to get the right angle, the camera disappeared into Lara Croft’s gigantic backside like a twitchy colonoscope. If I turned a little bit, Lara herself vanished into the rocks.
Twelve years on, and with Tomb Raider creator Core now little more than a stack of devalued assets, the problems that plagued the series are still haunting Lara Croft like the Ghosts of Polys Past. Underworld is a creaking old hulk of a game, building very slightly on Legend’s meager innovations but still delivering most of what fans expect: running and jumping, some combat, puzzles, and Dr. Lara.
Then I turned to Mirror’s Edge and could not imagine two more sublime contrasts.
There are a lot of things we could say about Fallout 3. Sure, it’s Elder Scrolls: The Mutant Years, but damn, it’s still a brilliant piece of role-playing design: a wide-open world with amazing sights and challenges at every turn.
Rather than descanting at length upon stats and perks, I want to talk about the single most mind-blowing part of the entire character creation system: facial hair. Fallout 3 opens a new era in beard and mustache design. You have never, ever seen such an assortment of whiskers in any game, ranging from the pathetic wisps of a teenager’s first attempt to huge Burnside sprouts and styles not seen outside of movies like Gettysburg or Tombstone. And these aren’t just the paste-ons from Oblivion: These are complete, textured moving models.
Three years ago, I wrote about the Godson-2, a Chinese microprocessor that’s largely compatible with the MIPS architecture. I speculated that its successor, the Godson-3, would be a quad-core chip and that the Chinese needed x86 compatibility to break into the worldwide PC market.
So I wasn’t too surprised when the Godson-3 was unveiled at a recent technology conference in Silicon Valley. Sure enough, the first version has four cores, and the Chinese are adding more than 200 new instructions for x86 software emulation. These developments indicate that Chinese microprocessor technology is rapidly catching up with the rest of the world.
Whew, that was quite an election, but my hope muscle is hopelessly strained and my change gland is exhausted. So I’m turning to a new pastime: second-guessing the Obama administration’s next moves.
I’m long on questions. Will his new trade representative continue forcing DMCA-like laws on our partners? Will his appointees to the Department of Justice prioritize IP cases? What legislation will he support regarding copyright terms, patent reforms, orphan works, and DMCA reforms?
As I’ve noted before, when you’re not playing action games, the killer GPU in your PC is basically a case heater. For the most part, it uselessly sucks power and radiates heat as you perform mundane computing tasks: web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet calculations, MP3 playback. GPUs are the most underutilized resource in PCs.
Finally, that’s changing. AMD now bundles its ATI Stream parallel-processing software in the latest ATI Catalyst graphics drivers. As users download and install these free drivers, they automatically prep their systems to run ATI Stream programs that leverage the GPU as a massively parallel processor. Before, users had to download ATI Stream separately. AMD is following Nvidia, which began bundling its CUDA parallel-processing software with display drivers in 2007.
With a presidential election around the corner, let’s look at how people pervert copyright law to squelch speech. Copyright takedown notices were never meant to stifle whistle-blowers or detractors, yet that’s become a popular use for them. Individual critics are likely to go broke even if they win a case, so people and ISPs tend to back down at lawyer point.
It's a cruel and efficient tactic, of which more after the jump.