New submitter petval tips another amazing Minecraft project: a functioning scientific/graphing calculator. "On a virtual scale, the functional device is enormous — enough so that anyone in the real world would become a red blot of meat and bone staining the road if they fell from the very top. Honestly, his virtual machine looks more like a giant cargo ship ripped from a sci-fi movie than a working calculator. Yet type your problem out on the keypad, and the answer appears on a large white display mounted on the side of the monstrous brick structure." The creator says it can do "6-digit addition and subtraction, 3-digit multiplication, division and trigonometric/scientific functions ... Graphing y=mx+c functions, quadratic functions, and equation solving of the form mx+c=0." We've previously discussed the creation of a 16-bit ALU in Minecraft.
MojoKid writes "Last week marked the launch of Wing Commander Saga: Darkest Dawn, a fan-built companion to Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger that's been in the making for the past ten years. It's a real labor of love. Now that the game is available, the question is, how good is it? "The game dropped on Thursday, I started playing Friday, and as of this writing (Sunday afternoon), my weekend chore list is gathering dust on the fridge. I've been too busy cursing my decision to chuck my Microsoft Sidewinder Precision 2 to notice. 'If I'd kept it just one more year I wouldn't have this problem,' I mutter, fingers splayed over the keyboard in a vain attempt to convince my Hellcat to bank like something other than a Centaurian Mud Pig. Wing Commander Saga is a fan-made game that's good enough to be worth paying for. Not only is it better than a lot of schlock companies expect you to pay for, it pays homage to its source material while improving on Wing Commander's classic gameplay and graphics."
donniebaseball23 writes "Microsoft recently confirmed that it's not going to be talking at all about its next Xbox, codenamed Durango, at this year's E3, instead keeping the focus on Xbox 360. Forbes columnist Chris Morris explains that Microsoft likely doesn't have games to show for the system yet — and why should they take the focus off Xbox 360, which currently has a lot of momentum? Ultimately, though, the decision not to show the next system 'could have a ripple effect on the rest of the industry,' he says. And by pushing Durango's unveiling back a year, 'Microsoft could find itself going head to head with Sony in a battle of features, even if the machines don't hit shelves at the same time.'" The latest rumor is that an ARM-based Xbox 'lite' is planned for 2013, with a true successor to the 360 coming some time after that.
silentbrad sends this snippet from PCGamer: "After stepping back as lead designer of Minecraft earlier this year, Notch has been considering what to do next. ... While he's still deciding exactly what he wants to work on, he told us that he'd quite like to do a sandbox space trading game like Elite, 'except done right.' Notch is aiming for something with a bit more character than the classic trading sim. Instead of being the spaceship, you'd be a character inside the spaceship. 'I want the space game that's more like Firefly,' he said. 'I want to run around on my ship and have to put out a fire. Like, oh crap, the cooling system failed, I have to put out the fire here.' He hasn't decided to make the game yet, and doesn't mind if someone else takes up the reins. 'If someone steals the idea before me, that's totally fine. I just want to play that game,' he said."
failure to roll over in the aftermath of an FBI raid more than 20 years ago led to the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since 1980, Steve Jackson and company have been publishing games -- and a magazine, and even a book. The company is based in Austin, Texas, so while I was at SXSW, I had a chance to meet up with SJG's Chief Operating Officer and Managing Editor, Philip Reed, who gave a quick overview of what's new on the table. (Har har.)
crookedvulture writes Nvidia has lifted the curtain on reviews of its latest GPU architecture, which will be available first in the high-end GeForce GTX 680 graphics card. The underlying GK104 processor is much smaller than the equivalent AMD GPU, with fewer transistors, a narrower path to memory, and greatly simplified control logic that relies more heavily on Nvidia's compiler software. Despite the modest chip, Nvidia's new architecture is efficient enough that The Tech Report, PC Perspective, and AnandTech all found the GeForce GTX 680's gaming performance to be largely comparable to AMD's fastest Radeon, which costs $50 more. The GTX 680 also offers other notable perks, like a PCI Express 3.0 interface, dynamic clock scaling, new video encoding tech, and a smarter vsync mechanism. It's rather power-efficient, too, but the decision to focus on graphics workloads means the chip won't be as good a fit for Nvidia's compute-centric Tesla products. A bigger GPU based on the Kepler architecture is expected to serve that market." Read on below for good news (at least if you prefer Free software) from an anonymous reader. Update: 03/22 19:35 GMT by T : Mea culpa -- that headline should say "Kepler," rather than Fermi; HT to Dave from Hot Hardware (here's HH's take on the new GPU).
giant (and charitable!) LANFest at this year's event, had on hand for display a few of their own modded computer cases. John and Red are both part of Austin Modders, which helps Austinites swap tools and ideas (in-person, and via forums) for creating the kind of enclosures that computer makers simply can't — they're too time-intensive and too personalized for that. It's especially fun to see the effects that the newly widespread availability of laser cutters makes possible. (C'mon, O'Reilly, isn't it time for another Austin Maker Faire?)
Hugh Pickens writes "Steve Lohr reports that an impressive crossword-solving computer program called Dr. Fill matched its digital wits against 600 of the nation's best human crossword-solvers, finishing only 141st at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in New York. 'I wish it had done better,' says Dr. Matthew Ginsberg, the creator of Dr. Fill and an expert in artificial intelligence. Dr. Fill typically thrives on conventional crosswords, even ones with arcane clues and answers; it solved one of the most difficult puzzles at the tournament perfectly. But the computer does poorly with clever clues based on puns or jokes, because humans and machines solve the crosswords very differently. Humans recognize patterns based on accumulated knowledge and experience, while computers make endless calculations to determine the most statistically probable answer. The computer program is literal minded, and tends to struggle on puzzles with humor, and puzzles with unusual themes or letter arrangements. Take this clue from a 2010 puzzle in The Times: Apollo 11 and 12 (180 degrees). The answer is SNOISSIWNOOW, seemingly gibberish. A clever human could eventually figure out that those letters, when rotated 180 degrees, spell MOON MISSIONS. Humans get the joke, while a literal-minded computer does not. 'Occasionally, Dr. Fill just doesn't get it,' says Ginsberg. 'That's my nightmare.'"
spidweb writes "The latest Humble Bundle has gone live, with five new games for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Android. It consists of Zen Bound 2, Avadon: The Black Fortress, Canabalt, and Cogs, with Swords & Soldiers thrown in for anyone who pays at least the average. As always, the games are pay-what-you-want and DRM-free, and this is the initial Linux and Android release for many of them. Of course, as is the tradition with Humble Bundles, other games are likely to be added on later."
Fluffeh writes with news that U.S. Congressmen Baca (D-CA) and Wolf (R-VA) have proposed a bill that would require most video games to have a warning label decrying their "potential damaging" long-term effects on children. "Under the one-page Violence in Video Games Labeling Act (PDF), packaging for all video games except those rated 'EC' for Early Childhood would be required to prominently display a message reading: 'WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.' The proposed label would be required even if the video game in question is not violent."
First time accepted submitter jeffrlamb writes "Cheating in live chess matches — fueled by powerful computer programs that play better than people do, as well as sophisticated communication technologies — is becoming a big problem for world championship chess. Kenneth W. Regan is attempting to construct a mathematical proof to see if someone cheated; the trouble is that so many variables and outliers must be taken into account. Modeling and factoring human behavior in competition turns out to be very difficult."
xwwt writes "Wil Wheaton is working with Felicia Day on a new show called Tabletop, which will air on the YouTube Channel Geek and Sundry. The show will be about board games and gaming in general. This is how he describes it: 'My ulterior motive with Tabletop is to show by example how much fun it is to play boardgames. I want to show that Gamers aren't all a bunch of weirdoes who can't make eye contact when they talk to you, and that getting together for a game night is just as social and awesome as getting together to watch Sportsball, or to play poker, or for a LAN party, or whatever non-gamers do with their friends. I want to inspire people to try hobby games, and I want to remove the stigma associated with gaming and gamers.' The first show airs April 2nd."
MojoKid writes "At last count, Activision Blizzard pegged the number of World of Warcraft subscribers at 10.2 million. It takes a massive amount of gear to host all the different game worlds, or realms, as they're referred to. Each realm is hosted on its own server, and in late 2011, Activision Blizzard began auctioning off retired server blades from the days of yore to benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. They sold around 2,000 retired Hewlett-Packard p-Class server blades on eBay and donated 100 percent of the proceeds (minus auction expenses) to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which seeks to advance the treatment and prevention of catastrophic diseases in children. This article has a look at one of those retired server blades."
mikejuk writes "Atari is offering up to $100,000 in a contest for a new version of Pong, the classic game that launched video games 40 years ago, for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. The judges for the contest include Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, who came up with the original idea for Pong. So, what does a 21st century Pong look like? How does it play? And what role does touch have in this, the simplest of games?"