For many, supercomputing seems like something that’s out of reach. At the most, we’ll usually just contribute our spare processor cycles to a project that involves it. But Purdue University is looking to change all that with their latest venture, Rack-A-Node.
Rack-A-Node is a flash-based game that requires you to become the network admin, and set up each rack so that they hold a solid cluster of servers that are good at tackling a variety of different tasks. From chemistry to physics, it’s all up to you to figure out if you’ll need more CPU power, more RAM or a wicked fast connection.
While the game isn’t meant to actually turn the average man into a supercomputing whiz, it is meant to let us get one step closer to it. “This is a dry and boring topic even for geeks,” claimed Gerry McCartney, the chief information officer at Purdue. “So, we wanted a way to get people excited about these things.”
Evidently they’ve been asked to create a more sophisticated version of the game that would be designed as a learning tool. “It is not stupid right now, but it’s way too simple,” Mr. McCartney said.
Google’s been on a real spree lately, rolling out one improvement after another for their Gmail service. Looks like that’s not about to stop, as they’ve just announced that the service's built-in messenger will be getting noticeably beefier with the addition of voice and video chat.
The feature will be built right into the Gmail page (no client download required) and will allow anyone to chat in real time with other Gmail users. Google has posted a video showing off how the feature functions, and frankly it looks pretty damn cool.
The service certainly isn’t as full featured as voice-chat top-dog Skype (it cannot, for instance, connect to a regular phone), but it looks like it might be just the thing for a quick chat with someone you’ve been talking to with email or Gmail’s chat. And, knowing Google, it’s probably just a matter of time until the service’s features are fully fleshed out.
The service is available now, and requires a plugin download.
Do you use video or voice chat on your computer? Will you give Gmail’s new service a try? Let us know after the jump.
Google's open-source Android platform may not have revolutionized the mobile industry just yet, but it has spurred some interesting comments among top level execs. Two weeks ago, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said that the current iteration of Android isn't "good enough to put the Sprint brand name on it," and taking it a step further, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer says he sees the move as being finanically unsound for Google.
"They can hire smart guys, hire a lot of people, blah dee blah dee blah, but you know they start out way behind, in a certain sense," Ballmer said while speaking at Telstra's annual investment day.
Ballmer went on to say that he doesn't understand Google's strategy, criticizing a product launch launch "that has no revenue model." But the potshots didn't end there. Ballmer further indicated that "Google doesn't exactly bubble to the top of the list of competitors we've got going in mobile." Oh snap!
Is Ballmer underestimating the potential of Google's Android platform? Hit the jump and give us your thoughts.
This month's Patch Tuesday, unlike October's, is a quiet one, with just two security bulletins:
MS08-069 solves a remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft's XML Core Service that is rated as Critical for version 3.0 and Important for later versions. All 32-bit and 64-bit desktop versions of Windows from Windows 2000 SP4 through Windows Vista SP1 are affected, as well as Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007. The Exploitability Index is 1 (Consistent Exploit Code Likely - the most serious ranking) or 2 (Inconsistent Exploit Code Likely), depending upon the version of XML Core Services installed. Windows Server 2003 and some installations of Windows Server 2008 are also affected.
MS08-068 patches a remote code execution vulnerability in the SMB protocol. MS08-068 is rated as Important for Windows 2000 SP4 and Windows XP, and Moderate for Windows Vista. Windows Server 2003 and all Windows Server 2008 installations are also affected. Despite Microsoft's rating this vulnerability as only Important rather than Critical, MS08-068's Exploitability Index is 1 because exploit code targeting Windows XP is already public.
That's it for Patch Tuesday security bulletins, both of which will be arriving soon via Windows Update (or can be downloaded manually if you prefer). What else has Microsoft served up?
The only non-security content this time is the usual monthly update for the Malicious Software Removal Tool (KB890830; not yet updated as this article was posted now updated) and the usual monthly update for the Windows Mail junk mail filter (KB905866), available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
The argument against used games is that by buying them, you're cheating the developer out of potential profits he or she may otherwise have obtained had you purchased the game as new. The obvious flaw is that not everyone who purchases used games at a discount would have bought the title for a premium price as a new release, so the question of how much the used game market actually affects developers remains an open-ended one.
Nevertheless, developers and publishers are brainstorming on ways in which they can either deter gamers from buying used games or cash in on the sales, and some of those ideas are sure to irk the gaming community. Take for example Epic president Mike Capps, who claims some developers would like to see additional fees tacked on to used titles in order to complete the game.
"I've talked to some developers who are saying 'If you want to fight the final boss you go online and pay $20, but if you bought the retail version you got it for free," explained Capps to GamesIndustry.
Developers and publishers have already started to push one-time download codes for new games, such as the 20-song bonus tracks available to Rock Band 2 owners, as well as DLC codes in games like Gears of War 2 and NBA Live 09. But if DLC codes fail to lure more buyers from the outset, you can bet that developers will continue to cast an eye towards the used games market and come up with increasingly obtrusive strategies for cashing in.
Intel's Atom processor has become almost synonymous with low power netbooks and nettops, but there are other players eager to make their presence known. Chief among them is VIA, whose Nano processor might even be faster than Intel's Atom, clock for clock. Obtaining vendor support has been a problem for VIA, but that could change as Acer gears up to launch a low-cost and low-power nettop in early 2009.
Acer says it will likely surpass its goal of 12-13 million Aspire one netbooks shipped in 2009. The high demand has the company thinking about alternatives to Intel's Atom processor for its upcoming nettop so as not to eat into its Atom processor supply. Both VIA and AMD are being considered, says DigiTimes, though the company also hasn't ruled out sticking with Intel's Atom chip.
Acer's indecision doesn't stop at the processor. The company is also mulling which manufacturer it wants to produce the nettop. The three possible options include Quanta Computer, Wistron, and MSI.
Seagate is looking to push its full disk encryption (FDE) hard drives and is getting help from Dell in doing so. FDE drives come in both 5400RPM and 7200RPM flavors in capacities up to 320GB in Dell Latitude and Precision notebooks, and also Dell's Optiplex 960 desktops. According to Seagate, 500GB FDE drivers will be available by the end of 2008.
All information stored on Seagate's FDE drives are automatically encrypted and require a password before being accessed. Without the password, Seagate claims the drive essentially locks up. That could be bad news if an end-user manages to forget the password, but in this scenario, the drive can be unlocked remotely by IT staff using McAfee's ePO software. This only applies to the enterprise level, however, and when the drives become available in the consumer market, no such workaround exists, at least not yet.
From a performance standpoint, Seagate claims there are no noticeable performance impacts as FDE drives encrypt data as it is being written and decrypt when being read.
DivX has begun offering its upcoming DivX Player 7.0 in Beta 1 form, and with it support for MKV files containing high definition H.264 video and surround sound AAC audio.
DivX has been playing around with H.264 support for some time now as part of its "Rémoulade" project, but this marks the first player release to incorporate this capability. DivX says the player's H.264 video decoding will come with support for Baseline, Main, High, High 10, and High 4:2:2 profiles, full interlace support, multithreading decoding on up to 8 CPU cores, and optimizations for MMX, SSE, and SSE2 instruction sets.
The release will also contain several general improvements over the currently shipping DivX Player 6.8.2, including wider Direct3D videocard compatibility, the return of the GDI renderer allowing the player to display video when no hardware acceleration is available, and better handling of AVI files that have a broken index, and improved support for media created with the company's DivX Author application.
Microsoft has released its DirectX November 2008 update as part of the company's loosely followed bi-annual update schedule. The last DirectX update was served up in August.
A number of enhancements mostly of interest to developers come packaged in the November DirectX SDK, as well as a Direct3D 11 technical preview with associated components and tools. As far as gamers are concerned, we found little information as to what possible bugs and performance enhancements the new update addresses.
If you're experiencing unexplained wonkiness while gaming and have been unable to troubleshoot the problem, you may want to give the November update a spin. Otherwise, you'll likely receive the update as a pre-packaged install on a new game at some point.
And you thought only one person on the entire planet was well and truly pissed at EA for its repeated usage of DRM. However, that was only the beginning. Now, two more criminally dissatisfied customers have rallied their lawyers, hoping to pulverize the mega-publisher's pocketbook into penniless mush.
The first suit, filed by Pennsylvania resident Richard Eldridge, points the all-important blame finger at the Spore Creature Creator trial -- not the full game. According to the suit, the game "secretly" popped his machine's DRM cherry, a feature completely unmentioned in EA's End User License Agreement.
The other DRM-detractor, Dianna Cortez of Missouri, encountered SecuROM DRM in The Sims 2: Bon Voyage. Her computer was never the same after that day.
"After installing Bon Voyage, Ms. Cortez began having problems with her computer," reads the suit. "She had previously made backup Sims 2 game content on CDs, but her computer's disc drive would no longer recognize that content, reporting the CDs as empty. She could not access files that were saved on her USB flash drive or iPod, either."
She also calls EA's practices "immoral, unethical, oppressive [and] unscrupulous" -- a sentiment with which we're sure her fellow lawsuit-slingers would agree.
Now if the entire 0.2% hopped aboard the lawsuit express, we might be onto something. As is, however, EA's gold-encrusted big toe will be more than enough to squash these three valiant musketeers. If nothing else, we can only hope that EA will actually learn something from all this, but we're not counting on it.