Game Technology Helps Drive Military Training

Posted at SlashDot on Thursday May 29.

With the gaming industry now spending more to develop user interfaces than the Pentagon, the Army has begun putting all that R&D to good use in weaponry and training. Reversing the traditional role of games attempting to simulate real life killing machines, it is now the weapons makers using gaming technology to make their products more effective. Popular Mechanics notes, 'Already, [Mark Bigham, director of business development for Raytheon Tactical Intelligence Systems] says that Raytheon has been experimenting with Wii controllers to explore the possibilities for training simulators and other applications that require physical movement. Just think, one day, the R&D that Nintendo put into Wii bowling could end up influencing basic training.'

U.S. Economy: The Worst is Yet to Come

By Mark Weisbrot, Huffington Post
Posted on May 29, 2008 via AlterNet

Since the U.S. economy showed positive growth for the last quarter, some commentators in the business press are saying that we are not necessarily going to have a recession, or that if there is one it will be mild. This is a bit like the proverbial story of the man who jumped out of a window 60 floors up, and then said "so far, so good," as he passed the 30th floor.

The United States accumulated a massive, $8 trillion housing bubble during the decade from 1996-2006. Only about 40 percent of that bubble has now deflated. House prices are still falling at a 20 percent annual rate (over the last quarter). This means that the worst is yet to come, including another wave of mortgage defaults and write-downs. Even homeowners who are not in trouble will borrow increasingly less against their homes, reducing their spending.

President Bush says we are not in a recession. One commonly-used definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of declining output (GDP). The first quarter of 2008 came in at 0.6 percent, although it would have been negative if not for inventory accumulation. So by this definition we cannot say with certainty that the recession has started, although it could well have started this quarter. Of course, for most Americans it has felt like a recession hit some time ago, with real wages flat since the end of 2002, and household income not growing for most of the six-and-a-half year economic expansion.

The National Bureau of Economic Research will eventually decide on the official onset of the recession, but even its definition is arbitrary. All the indicators of a serious recession are swirling around us. The economy has lost jobs for four months in a row, which has never happened without a recession. Consumer confidence has dropped to a 28 year low -- a level not seen since Jimmy Carter was president. Home foreclosure filings are up 65 percent over last year. And now commercial real estate prices are heading south, dropping 6.2 percent in the first quarter.

With oil prices hitting record highs, and the Fed beginning to worry more about inflation, more restrictive lending practices and other fallout from the credit crunch, the near-term economic future looks even dimmer.

Some look to exports to lead the recovery, but these are only 11 percent of GDP, and consumption is about 70 percent. Still, the fall in the dollar over the last six years is helping -- making our exports more competitive and reducing the subsidy that we have been giving to imports for many years. In a sign of how economic illiteracy prevails in the United States, most people (thanks largely to what they hear and read in the media) see the dollar's decline as bad economic news.

We are facing the prospect of millions losing their homes, their jobs, their retirement savings, their health insurance, and their livelihoods.

This serious economic situation greatly raises the stakes of the 2008 election. What will the government do to help the victims of economic mismanagement, to provide health insurance, and to restart the economy? Is it really more important to spend billions each week on the occupation of Iraq?

So far the government hasn't done much. The stimulus package now taking effect, at about one percent of GDP and much of it likely to be saved, is quite small. The major legislation that Congress is considering for the housing crisis would mainly bail out lenders and investors while doing little for most underwater homeowners.

The voice of the people has yet to be heard on these questions in the halls of power. It had better get a lot louder, soon.

"Nightlife" Harnesses Idle Fedora Nodes For Research

Posted on Slashdot, Thursday May 29:

If you've given up on SETI, now you can let your idle computer help with other kinds of scientific research. Red Hat employee Bryan Che started a project called Nightlife. He wants people to 'donate idle capacity from their own computers to an open, general-purpose Fedora-run grid for processing socially beneficial work and scientific research that requires access to large amounts of computing power.'

Che hopes to have more than a million Fedora nodes running as part of this project.


McCain vs. Obama on Tech Issues

Haven't posted in awhile again. I'm going to try and catch up (if I can stay off Facebook long enough - curse you addictive game app programmers! I cannot stay away from Mobwars or Knighthood!).

So this piece was posted yesterday afternoon on Slashdot:
Ars is running a brief article that looks at stances from Chuck Fish of McCain's campaign and Daniel Weitzner from Obama's in regards to technical issues that may cause us geeks to vote one way or the other. From openness vs. bandwidth in the net neutrality issue to those pesky National Security Letters, there's some key differences that just might play at least a small part in your vote. You may also remember our discussions on who is best for geeks.

I'm an affirmed Obama supporter - it's easy enough to see why from a tech standpoint for anyone who knows me. Just peruse his whitepaper on the subject.

The most telling comment made from the article is this:
Politics can get pretty shallow, but there's more to it than being a bitch for the polls. I think this little Q&A is a case in point. Not the answers themselves, but the people chosen to deliver them. McCain chose a lawyer with strong connections to a major media conglomerate that many of us have reason to loathe. Obama chose a computer scientist with connections to a university that played a big role in creating the Internet. That, by itself, should tell you where there respective priorities are.

And just one final point to leave you with, in response to another post expressing interest in paying more in taxes for the manned space program:
Wouldn't that be a neat option on your tax forms? It would be cool if you could designate x% of your tax dollars to go to some government program (education, military, NASA, CDC, etc). Whatever you are most concerned with would get a boost come tax time. The dollars would go to where we as a nation really want them to go.

I know that there are a lot of problems with distributed government plans, but the reason we have elected representatives as we do is because 200 years ago it was the only feasible way for everyone to have a semblance of a voice. With tech growing as it has (wikis, dBs), the possibility of getting everyone who cares to chime in is no longer an impossibility.

Wikilaws.gov? Congressional budgets via W-4s? I know it would be a disaster, but maybe some hybrid of our current system with a distributed system could work.

Pipe dream? Perhaps. But like he said, wouldn't that be cool if it were implemented?


The Guild - Episode 10: Boss Fight

Season finale: The Guild tries to take down the scariest boss of all time, Zaboo's mom!


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Been awhile since I've posted, I meant to catch up on the past weekend's events. Crazy busy though. Just to tide you over, here's how to pay your next Verizon bill:


Washington, DC - Welcome to our Nation's Capital

Read and drive at your own risk!

For those who plan to visit our area...

First, you must learn to call it by its rightful name. It is DC or "the District" - only tourists call it Washington.

Next, if your road map of Montgomery County is more than a few weeks old, throw it out and buy a new one. It's obsolete. If in Loudoun or Fairfax County and your map is one day old, it's already obsolete.

There is no such thing as a dangerous high speed chase in D.C. It's just another chase, usually on the BW Parkway.

All directions start with "The Beltway"... which has no beginning and no end, just one continuous loop that locals believe is somehow clarified by an "inner" and "outer loop" designation. This makes no sense to ANYONE outside the area.

The morning rush hour is from 5 to 11 AM. The evening rush hour is from 1 to 8 PM. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday morning, especially during the summer on Route 50 eastbound.

If there is a game at the Redskins stadium, there is no point in driving anywhere near PG County. (Bonus Tip: Never say PG County to anyone from Mitchellville, Upper Marlboro or Fort Washington - it's Prince Georges County. Otherwise they'll blow a vessel in their neck and go into a seizure.)

If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended and shot at. If you run the red light, be sure to smile for the $100 "picture" you will receive courtesy of DMV. (However, if you don't go as soon as the light turns green, you will get cussed out in 382 languages.

Rain causes an immediate 50 point drop of IQ in drivers. Snow causes an immediate 100 point drop in IQ and a rush to the nearest Giant for toilet paper and milk.

Construction on I-270 is a way of life and a permanent source of scorn and cynical entertainment. It's ironic that it's called an "Interstate," but runs only from Bethesda to Frederick. (Unless you consider Frederick County another state, which some do). Opening in the 60's, it has been torn up and under reconstruction ever since. Also, it has a "Spur" section which is even more confusing.

All unexplained sights are explained by the phrase, "Oh, we're in Takoma Park".

If someone actually has their turn signal on, they are by definition, a tourist. Car horns are actually "Road Rage" indicators. Heed the warning.

All old ladies in Buicks have the right of way in the area of Leisure World.

Many roads mysteriously change their names as you cross intersections. Don't ask why, no one knows.

If asking directions in Arlington, Langley Park, Wheaton or Adams Morgan, Spanish helps. In Annandale, Cambodian or Vietnamese will come in handy. If on Dupont Circle, Capital Hill or U Street, tolerance for same sex helps. If you stop to ask directions in Southeast... well, just don't.

A taxi ride across town will cost you $12.50. A taxi ride two blocks will cost you 16.75. (It's a zone thing, you wouldn't understand - but not for long now!)

Traveling south out of DC on Interstate 395/95 is the most dangerous, scariest thing you will ever do. Second most would be driving Route 4 in rush hour.

There is nothing more comforting then seven lanes of traffic cruising along at 85 mph, BUMPER TO BUMPER!!! (Truer words have never been written!)

The minimum acceptable speed on the Beltway is 85. Anything less is considered downright sissy.

The open lane for passing on all Maryland interstates is the far right lane because no self-respecting Marylander would ever be caught driving in the "slow" lane. Unofficially, both shoulders are fair game also. The far left lanes on all Maryland interstates are official "chat" lanes reserved for drivers who wish to talk on their cell phones. Note: All SUVs have priority clearance to use the far left at whatever speed the driver feels most comfortable multi-tasking in.

The Beltway is our daily version of a NASCAR reality show. Strap up and collect points as you go.

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