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Role Playing (Games)

Interviews: Ask Steve Jackson About Designing Games 89 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
Since starting his own company in 1980, Steve Jackson, founder and editor-in-chief of Steve Jackson Games, has created a number of hits, starting with Car Wars . . . followed shortly by Illuminati, and later by GURPS, the "Generic Universal Roleplaying System." In 1983, he was elected to the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame - the youngest person ever so honored. He has personally won 11 Origins Awards. In the early 90's, Steve got international press due to the Secret Service's invasion of his office. The EFF helped make it possible for SJ Games to bring suit against the Secret Service and the U.S. government and win more than $50,000 in damages. His Ogre kickstarter a couple of years ago brought in close to a million dollars. His current hits are Munchkin, a very silly card game about killing monsters and taking their stuff, and Zombie Dice, in which you eat brains and try not to get shotgunned. His current projects include a variety of Munchkin follow-ups, and the continuing quest to get his games translated into digital form. Steve has agreed to put down the dice and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Space

The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan To Save Earth From the Next Giant Asteroid 84 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the how's-that-space-program-coming-along dept.
New submitter citadrianne sends a story about the beginnings of our asteroid defense efforts, and how initial concern over an asteroid strike wasn't sustained long enough to establish consistent funding: Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn't take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call." After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak.

If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. ... After reports from the National Research Council made it clear that meeting the discovery requirement outlined in the Congressional mandate was impossible given the lack of program funding, NEOO got a tenfold budget increase from 2009 to 2014. Yet it still faces a number of difficulties. A program audit released last September described the NEOO program as a one-man operation that is poorly integrated and lacking in objectives and oversight.
Government

How Uber Takes Over a City 202 202

Posted by timothy
from the taking-the-offensive dept.
schwit1 suggests Bloomberg's story on one aspect of Uber's corporate behavior that may leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who'd like to believe the Uber-vs.-the-Cartels narrative. The company hired David Plouffe, known for managing Barack Obama's rise to fame, and many others as well, to help them navigate inevitable and ongoing moves for regulation. The scale is impressive; according to the article: Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf. And while the article focuses mostly on the example of Portland, the effort is ongoing and nationwide.
Government

Despite Regulatory Nod, Cheap Ebola Test Still Undeployed 24 24

Posted by timothy
from the but-we-can-pay-in-2017-dollars dept.
According to an article in Nature, the researchers who developed an inexpensive, reliable field test for the Ebola virus are frustrated by the delay they've seen in actually having that test deployed. Known as the Corgenix test after the company which developed it, this diagnostic tool "could not replace lab confirmation, but it would allow workers to identify infected people and isolate them faster, greatly reducing the spread of disease," according to infectious-diseases physician Nahid Bhadelia. However, though it's been approved both by the US FDA (for emergency use) and the World Health Organization, its practical use has been hampered by country-level regulations. Just why is unclear; the test seems to be at least as effective as other typical tests, and in some ways better. One concern was that the test might fail to detect the virus in some cases of Ebola. But the independent field-validation1 (in Sierra Leone) shows that the kit was as sensitive at catching cases as the gold-standard comparison — a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test that amplifies and detects genetic sequences that are specific to Ebola in blood and other bodily fluids.
Government

79% of Airbnb Listings In Barcelona Are Illegal 103 103

Posted by timothy
from the proper-authorities dept.
dkatana writes: Barcelona has more than 16,000 Airbnb listings and, according to reports on Cities of the Future, 79% could be illegal. "In April, Airbnb's European General Manager Jeroen Merchiers confirmed, during the Student Tourism Congress in Barcelona, that the platform has more than 85,000 listings in Spain alone." But most Airbnb hosts do not apply for a permit, fail to pay insurance and tourist tax, and ignore Catalonian law that forbids short-term rentals of rooms in private homes. "Residents," says the article, "had been complaining about the rising number of tourist apartments and the conduct of the mostly student-age renters. The majority from Italy, Germany and the UK were partying all night, some running around naked, and generally trashing their neighborhoods."
Encryption

NIST Updates Random Number Generation Guidelines 64 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the of-barn-doors-and-horses dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Encryption weighs heavily on the public consciousness these days, as we've learned that government agencies are keeping an eye on us and a lot of our security tools aren't as foolproof as we've thought. In response to this, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has issued a formal update to its document on how to properly generate a random number — crucial in many types of encryption. The update (as expected) removes a recommendation for the Dual_EC_DRBG algorithm. It also adds extra options for CTR_DRBG and points out examples for implementing SP 800-90A generators. The full document (PDF) is available online.
Government

Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage 1052 1052

Posted by timothy
from the stuff-that-matters dept.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued Friday a landmark decision, ruling that marriage is a Constitutionally protected right to homosexual as well as heterosexual couples. The New York Times notes that last year, by refusing to hear appeals to decisions favoring same-sex marriage in five states, the court "delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19." (In the time since, several more states have expanded marriage to include gay couples.) Reuters expains a bit of the legal and political history of the movement which led to today's decision, and points out some of the countries around the world which have made similar moves already.
Government

Editor of 'Reason' Discusses Federal Subpoena To Unmask Commenters 144 144

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-people-say-bad-stuff-on-the-internet dept.
mi points out an article from Nick Gillespie, editor of libertarian website Reason, who was recently asked by the federal government to provide identifying information on anonymous commenters from one of the site's blog posts. Not only was Reason issued a subpoena for the commenters's identities, but they were also placed under a gag order, preventing them from even mentioning it to somebody who wasn't their lawyer. Gillespie says the comments in question were "hyperbolic, in questionable taste–and fully within the norms of Internet commentary." He continues: To the extent that the feds actually thought these were serious plans to do real harm, why the hell would they respond with a slow-moving subpoena whose deadline was days away? By spending five minutes doing the laziest, George Jetson-style online "research" (read: Google and site searches), they would have found publicly available info on some of the commenters. I'm talking things like websites and Google+ pages. One of the commenters had literally posted thousands of comments at Reason.com, from which it is clear that he (assuming it is a he) is not exactly a threat to anyone other than common decency."
The Courts

Supreme Court Upholds Key Obamacare Subsidies 588 588

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-we'll-stop-arguing-about-it dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Retuers reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 6 — 3 in favor of the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, handing a major victory to the president. It marked the second time in three years that the high court ruled against a major challenge to the law brought by conservatives seeking to gut it.

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," wrote Chief Justice Roberts in the majority opinion (PDF). He added that nationwide availability of the credits is required to "avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid." The ruling will come as a major relief to Obama as he seeks to ensure that his legacy legislative achievement is implemented effectively and survives political and legal attacks before he leaves office in early 2017. Justice Antonin Scalia took the relatively rare step of reading a summary of his dissenting opinion from the bench. "We really should start calling the law SCOTUScare," said Scalia referencing the court's earlier decision upholding the constitutionality of the law.
United States

Google, Apple, and Others Remove Content Related To the Confederate Flag 812 812

Posted by Soulskill
from the symbols-are-for-the-symbol-minded dept.
davek writes with news that Google is removing results related to the Confederate Flag from Google Shopping, the company's online marketplace. They're also blocking advertisements involving the flag. They say, "We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our Ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group." At the same time, Apple is removing from the App Store any games or other software featuring the Confederate Flag. This, of course, follows the recent shooting in South Carolina, which triggered a nationwide debate over whether the flag should be flown at government buildings (or anywhere). Major online merchant websites like eBay and Amazon have already taken the step of banning merchandise relating to the flag.
Government

France, Up In Arms Over NSA Spying, Passes New Surveillance Law 80 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: French President Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting with top security officials to respond to WikiLeaks documents that say the NSA eavesdropped on French presidents. The documents published in Liberation and investigative website Mediapart include material that appeared to capture current president, François Hollande; the prime minister in 2012, Jean-Marc Ayrault; and former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, talking candidly about Greece's economy and relations with Germany. The Intercept reports: "Yet also today, the lower house of France's legislature, the National Assembly, passed a sweeping surveillance law. The law provides a new framework for the country's intelligence agencies to expand their surveillance activities. Opponents of the law were quick to mock the government for vigorously protesting being surveilled by one of the country's closest allies while passing a law that gives its own intelligence services vast powers with what its opponents regard as little oversight. But for those who support the new law, the new revelations of NSA spying showed the urgent need to update the tools available to France's spies."
Government

Why We Need Certain Consumer Drone Regulations 175 175

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-out-of-the-way dept.
stowie writes: In the last week, state and federal firefighters have fought more than 270 wildfires in California. Here's the problem: firefighters are seeing more unauthorized consumer drones flying over active wildfires. Maybe the drone owners don't know or maybe they don't care, but temporary flight restrictions are placed over wildfire areas due to the aircraft used to help contain the fires. The aircraft used to knock down flames and survey burn areas have to cease operations when there is a drone in the air.
Earth

Judge Orders Dutch Government To Finally Take Action On Climate Promises 242 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the won't-somebody-think-of-the-dutch-children dept.
New submitter Errol backfiring writes: Although the Dutch government has promised to make sure carbon emissions are lowered considerably, they have consistently failed to take action. Dutch climate group Urgenda and Dutch citizens have gone to court to force the government to take action, and the verdict (linked page is in Dutch) is that the government must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 leves.

This 25% cut is seen as the minimum effort needed to keep the people safe from climate change dangers. 25% to 40% is the norm in international climate policy. The verdict is also important for similar climate groups in other countries.
Mars

Elon Musk Probably Won't Be the First Martian 167 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-your-musk-to-mars dept.
pacopico writes: In a new biography on him, Elon Musk goes into gory details on his plans for colonizing Mars. The author of the book subsequently decided to run those plans by Andy Weir, the author of The Martian. Weir's book is famous for its technical acumen around getting to and from The Red Planet. His conclusion is that Musk's technology, which includes the biggest rocket ever built, is feasible — but that Musk will not be the first man on Mars. The interview also hits on the future of NASA and what we need to get to Mars. Good stuff. Weir says, "My estimate is that this will happen in 2050. NASA is saying more like 2035, but I don't have faith in Congress to fund them."
United States

US Securities and Exchange Commission Hunting Insider Trading Hackers 20 20

Posted by Soulskill
from the new-sheriff-in-town dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is actively investigating the FIN4 financial hacking group identified by FireEye last December, according to a Reuters report. In an unprecedented extension of its usual practice, the SEC is soliciting information about security breaches from private companies, who are not obliged to reveal them unless the breach enters into categories covered by federal law. Former SEC Head of Internet Enforcement John Reed Stark describes the proactive stance of the organization as an "absolute first."
Security

New Snowden Leaks Show NSA Attacked Anti-Virus Software 98 98

Posted by timothy
from the picking-your-locks-for-your-own-protection dept.
New submitter Patricbranson writes: The NSA, along with its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), spent years reverse-engineering popular computer security software in order to spy on email and other electronic communications, according to the classified documents published by the online news site The Intercept. With various countries' spy agencies trying to make sure computers aren't secure (from their own intrusions, at least), it's no wonder that Kaspersky doesn't want to talk about who hacked them.
Censorship

Australia Passes Site-Blocking Legislation 57 57

Posted by timothy
from the status-quo-but-more-of-it dept.
ausrob writes: Cementing their position as Australia's most backwards and dangerous government in recent memory comes this nasty bit of legislation, riddled with holes (which is nothing new for this decrepit Government): "The legislation allows rights holders to go to a Federal Court judge to get overseas websites, or "online locations", blocked that have the "primary purpose" of facilitating copyright infringement. If a rights holder is successful in their blocking request, Australian internet providers, such as Telstra and Optus, will need to comply with a judge's order by disabling access to the infringing location." Adds reader Gumbercules!! links to another story on the legislation, writing: Aside from the sheer inefficiency of trying to spot piracy by blocking individual sites, there's also the risk that servers which house other, more legitimate sites, will be caught up in the net. Unsurprisingly, the bill does nothing to remedy the fact that Australians pay far more for access to media than other places in the World or that media is often not available or extremely delayed, here.
Google

DOJ Vs. Google: How Google Fights On Behalf of Its Users 78 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-has-your-back? dept.
Lauren Weinstein writes: While some companies have long had a "nod and wink" relationship with law enforcement and other parts of government -- willingly turning over user data at mere requests without even attempting to require warrants or subpoenas, it's widely known that Google has long pushed back -- sometimes though multiple layers of courts and legal processes -- against data requests from government that are not accompanied by valid court orders or that Google views as being overly broad, intrusive, or otherwise inappropriate. Over the last few days the public has gained an unusually detailed insight into how hard Google will fight to protect its users against government overreaching, even when this involves only a single user's data. One case reaches back to the beginning of 2011, when the U.S. Department of Justice tried to force Google to turn over more than a year's worth of metadata for a user affiliated with WikiLeaks. While these demands did not include the content of emails, they did include records of this party's email correspondents, and IP addresses he had used to login to his Gmail account. Notably, DOJ didn't even seek a search warrant. They wanted Google to turn over the data based on the lesser "reasonable grounds" standard rather than the "probable cause" standard of a search warrant itself. And most ominously, DOJ wanted a gag order to prevent Google from informing this party that any of this was going on, which would make it impossible for him to muster any kind of legal defense.
The Military

The US Navy's Warfare Systems Command Just Paid Millions To Stay On Windows XP 192 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the thank-you-sir-may-I-have-another? dept.
itwbennett writes: The Navy relies on a number of legacy applications and programs that are reliant on legacy Windows products,' said Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego. And that reliance on obsolete technology is costing taxpayers a pretty penny. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which runs the Navy's communications and information networks, signed a $9.1 million contract earlier this month for continued access to security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Making Donations Count 268 268

Posted by samzenpus
from the biggest-bang-for-your-buck dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As a recent college graduate I now have a job and enough money to actually buy things and donate to causes. Up until now I really haven't been paying attention to which groups are best to donate and which are scams. For example, Goodwill seems like a great organization until you dig deeper and discover they hire under privileged and disabled people only to exploit the related government handouts instead of doing it to benefit those people. What are some quality organizations to donate to? Who do you donate to and why? I'm looking for improving the poor, supporting constitutional rights, and supporting issues many Slashdotters can agree on such as net neutrality and anything against the media companies. I don't care what political group the money ends up going to. The specific case is more important than some arbitrary label. I'm also in the USA, so foreign recommendations are probably less helpful.