Friday, February 12, 2010

SurfaceScapes 2.0 demo

I remember many long nights (and some long weekends!) spent playing D&D. I have a long history with the game, all the way back to I think 1977 (yes, I am that old!).

I remember our game evolving to include miniatures, but that's as far as it ever went. With the advent of computer fantasy games, most of the fun went out of D&D, but the games were mostly stale, canned experiences without the spontaneity of playing with a group of six real live (arguably) people around a table, each one making his or her plans for what they wanted to do, and each completely foiled by the DM.

Well, this may just be the thing that brings the computer gamer and the D&D player together, just like the chocolate and peanut butter of a Reese's Cup. I'll be honest with you here, I only watched the video, but that made me so excited that I wanted to share it with all of you. I understand it's still a demo, but still, it just looks too cool! Watch the video, and read the review from Wolfgang Baur.

SurfaceScapes 2.0 demo: "

Wolfgang Baur, former editor of the immortal D&D magazine DRAGON and current publisher of a new, independent D&D magazine Kobold Quarterly had a chance to play around with the second edition of MS Surface-based SurfaceScapes D&D game. There are a lot of cool developments, like being able to load your character sheet onto a smartphone and have it continually updated as you take wounds. Here are Wolfgang's impressions:

  1. Movement and line of sight work great. In fact, a clever DM can distract the players, then move an orc from one patch of cover to another, where he again becomes invisible -- right until the moment a PC gets line of sight on it.
  2. It's still a demo. They've got a TON of work to do to integrate more powers, but the newest build for PAX East covers up to 5th level PCs, plus area attacks. Lots of basics still aren't implemented, like say a charge or anything outside the 1st PHB half-Heroic tier.
  3. The sound effects. Subtle, but powerful. Each attack comes with a sound. Dropping a dragon figure on the surface generates a roar and cloud of smoke. I could get used to this. What does a beholder sound like, I wonder?
  4. The Infinite Map. Being able to scroll the map under the figures is nice; it makes the table infinitely large. Not news for Fantasy Grounds players, but obviously useful. When the map scrolls, colored lines connect your figures to their new positions to make them easy to shift.
  5. Figures and Screens Together. The combination of real and virtual PCs and NPCs worked much better than I expected. There's been some hard work done on the interface design which takes me to .....
  6. At Your Fingertips. Overall, the interface is intuitive and easy to learn. You can pull up your PC's powers on the table. Frankly there's no reason this couldn't be integrated with the DDI if that's the direction the team wanted to go.
  7. 4E-Only. I asked about Pathfinder or generic game support. It ain't happening; this is specifically meant to handle 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. A generic system would probably be less valuable to gamers than one that handles specific rules.

See Wolfgang's post for a lot more details of his experience.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

PLUG hearing aid concept

I really don't know what to think about this one. It's a hearing aid that fits into a gauged ear. And it looks like it's about 1" from the picture!

I take this as proof that my mother was right about listening to my music way too loud on my headphones and in the car! Looks like the gen-Xers are starting to experience the same issues!

PLUG hearing aid concept: "
PLUG hearing aid concept

Body modification has its fair share of fans and detractors, and if you fall under the former category, then you might want to check out the PLUG hearing aid concept. Why do we say so? After all, the stereotype hardcore body modification aficionado will most probably indulge in a whole lot of rock music during his/her youth at some really insane volume levels, which is why a hearing aid would come in handy in their later years, sagging body parts, fading tattoos and all. Just see where the PLUG hearing aid concept fits in the ear and you'll get what we mean.

Permalink: PLUG hearing aid concept from Ubergizmo | Hot: Nexus One Review


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Subversive Groups Must Now Register In South Carolina

OK, this just looks like the stupidest law by far. Unless I'm reading this wrong, any organization in South Carolina that wants to overthrow the federal government has to tell the secretary of state of South Carolina or face a fine. Um, if they don't tell, how is anyone going to know? Or am I missing something here?

Subversive Groups Must Now Register In South Carolina: "Hugh Pickens writes "The Raw Story reports that terrorists who want to overthrow the United States government must now register with South Carolina's Secretary of State and declare their intentions — or face a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. The 'Subversive Activities Registration Act' passed last year in South Carolina and now officially on the books states that 'every member of a subversive organization, or an organization subject to foreign control, every foreign agent and every person who advocates, teaches, advises or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States ... shall register with the Secretary of State.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Robotic Audi TTS To Speed On Its Own Without A Driver

Here's some more on that robotic car that will do the Pikes Peak drive. This looks like a real promising test. Differential GPS and all the other gadgets are the keys to success here, I think. Too bad we need to wait until September for the test. I'll be waiting for the results! I'm excited. I want to get into my car and say "Take me to work" and kick back and relax! That would make this stupid commute a lot easier!

Robotic Audi TTS To Speed On Its Own Without A Driver: "
Robotic Audi TTS To Speed On Its Own Without A Driver

Humanoid robots are definitely cool, but what about cars that drive themselves? The team at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) is looking to send a robotic Audi TTS racing off at high speed up the tight bends that lead to Pikes Peak without a driver. The car, nicknamed Shelley, will be attempting a timed race in September. Other autonomous cars have reached the summit before, but only at speeds of around 25mph, the team is looking to do it much faster, and when you take into account Shelley has hit speeds of 130mph without a driver on testing grounds, it’ll certainly be an interesting challenge. The car will stay on track thanks to its use of a differential GPS, which is much more accurate than a standard GPS, allowing you to pinpoint the car’s position to within an inch. Aside from the GPS unit, Shelley can measure her speed and acceleration thanks to the wheel-speed sensors and accelerometer, and getting her bearings from gyroscopes. This will all be controlled by the bunch of electronics and gadgets that are crammed into the vehicle’s trunk. Will we all have self-driving cars to chauffer us around town in the future? It certainly seems like an appealing idea.

Permalink: Robotic Audi TTS To Speed On Its Own Without A Driver from Ubergizmo | Hot: Nexus One Review


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Microsoft Finally To Patch 17-Year-Old Bug

Well, I guess this would fall into the category of "better late than never". Actually, no one even noticed this "back door" into DOS. Yes, they finally patched a bug in DOS! Let's see, 17 years ago would have been 1993, which would have been NT 3.1 and DOS 4.1. Ancient history? Yes, but believe it or not, it's still included in the 32-bit access capabilities in all the current Microsoft OSs. Ouch!

Microsoft Finally To Patch 17-Year-Old Bug: "eldavojohn writes 'Microsoft is due for a very large patch this month, in which five critical holes (that render Windows hijackable by an intruder) are due to be fixed, in addition to twenty other problems. The biggest change addresses a 17-year-old bug dating back to the days of DOS, discovered in January by their BFF Google. The patch should roll out February 9th.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Robotic Audi To Brave Pikes Peak Without a Driver

This is very interesting! The key part of this whole thing is "at race speeds". I know that the annual Pikes Peak race goes pretty fast up that mountain. But without a driver? Autonomous? Um, I hope it will be the only car on the mountain! If Audi is successful with this, it could have big impacts in traffic jam reduction by automating some of the actions of people who commute long distances. Someone like me.

Robotic Audi To Brave Pikes Peak Without a Driver: "Scifi83 writes 'A team of researchers at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) has filled the trunk of an Audi TTS with computers and GPS receivers, transforming it into a vehicle that drives itself. The car will attempt Pikes Peak without a driver at race speeds, something that's never been done.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Can You Trust Chinese Computer Equipment?

Here's a question that's been bothering me for quite some time! How do we know that the people who build our computer hardware or firmware aren't putting something into them to eavesdrop, track, or steal information? Is it just paranoia? Is it justified, because of the recent Google attacks?

I've heard stories of people getting free thumb drives from trade shows, basically "vendor trash", but they would have key loggers or viriuses on them. Users without thinking will just jam them into a USB port "because it's free storage" and they're infected, or being "watched".

Be careful out there.

Can You Trust Chinese Computer Equipment?: "Ian Lamont writes 'Suspicions about China slipping eavesdropping technology into computer exports have been around for years. But the recent spying attacks, attributed to China, on Google and other Internet companies have revived the hardware spying concerns. An IT World blogger suggests the gear can't be trusted, noting that it wouldn't be hard to add security holes to the firmware of Chinese-made USB memory sticks, computers, hard drives, and cameras. He also implies that running automatic checks for data of interest in the compromised gear would not be difficult.' The blog post mentions Ken Thompson's admission in 1983 that he had put a backdoor into the Unix C compiler; he laid out the details in the 1983 Turing Award lecture, Reflections On Trusting Trust: 'The moral is obvious. You can't trust code that you did not totally create yourself. (Especially code from companies that employ people like me.) No amount of source-level verification or scrutiny will protect you from using untrusted code. In demonstrating the possibility of this kind of attack, I picked on the C compiler. I could have picked on any program-handling program such as an assembler, a loader, or even hardware microcode. As the level of program gets lower, these bugs will be harder and harder to detect. A well installed microcode bug will be almost impossible to detect.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.