Interesting things I've bookmarked (old posts, page 42)

Windows 8 Disappointing Usability

With the recent launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablets, Microsoft has reversed its user interface strategy. From a traditional Gates-driven GUI style that emphasized powerful commands to the point of featuritis, Microsoft has gone soft and now smothers usability with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.The new design is obviously optimized for touchscreen use (where big targets are helpful), but Microsoft is also imposing this style on its traditional PC users because all of Windows 8 is permeated by the tablet sensibility.How well does this work for real users performing real tasks? To find out, we invited 12 experienced PC users to test Windows 8 on both regular computers and Microsoft's new Surface RT tablets.

250 Year Old Secret Society Code Cracked

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page--and the details of this ritual--remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg. Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

Lets Think About The Year 2512

Looking forward 500 years requires us to make some assumptions. In the absence of breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, mind uploading, or longevity research (which it would be foolhardy to dismiss on this kind of timescale) none of us are going to be around in any form to observe it. We appear to be living close to the peak of a demographic bubble that will see our population max out or be in decline by 2100. Longevity breakthroughs (as in: a cure for the aging process, and all diseases that currently prevent us from reaching our maximum age) might smear out the descent, but unless old people suddenly start to have more children, it's not going to change it. Longevity breakthroughs would slow down the rate of change of demographic groups, but only in the medium term. 500 years is close to the human mean life expectancy if all medical causes of death are abolished: eventually an accident or violence will get you. So, demographically, the world of 2512 isn't going to resemble our world very closely at all, although it's anyone's guess at this stage as to who will prosper.

tech behind stratospheric skydive

Sixty five years ago today, Captain Charles Yeager became the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound in his X-1 aircraft. Daredevil Felix Baumgartner just became the first man to accomplish the same feat without a plane -- or indeed any assistance at all. In an almost unimaginable stunt, the 43-year old Austrian has jumped from a specially constructed balloon at over 128,000 feet (39km) above the earth, breaking the world record for high-altitude skydives and speeds in free fall.

tech behind stratospheric skydive

Citizens of Star Wars are Probably Totally Illiterate

Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. If something is read by someone in Star Wars, it's almost certainly off of a screen (and even then, maybe being translated by a droid), and it's definitely not for entertainment purposes. As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we're introduced to ancient Jedi "texts" called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings. Just how long has the Star Wars universe been reliant on fancy technology to transfer information as opposed to the written word? Is it possible that a good number of people in Star Wars are completely illiterate?

Facebook's Gen Y Nightmare

Tina Porter, 26. She's what you need for the transpacific trade issues you just mentioned, Alan. Her dissertation speaks for itself, she even learned Korean..." He pauses. "But?..." Asks the HR guy. "She's afflicted with acute migraine. It occurs at least a couple of times a month. She's good at concealing it, but our data shows it could be a problem", Chen said. "How the hell do you know that?" "Well, she falls into this particular Health Cluster. In her Facebook babbling, she sometimes refers to a spike in her olfactory sensitivity -- a known precursor to a migraine crisis. In addition, each time, for a period of several days, we see a slight drop in the number of words she uses in her posts, her vocabulary shrinks a bit, and her tweets, usually sharp, become less frequent and more nebulous. That's an obvious pattern for people suffering from serious migraine. In addition, the Zeo Sleeping Manager website and the stress management site HeartMath -- both now connected with Facebook - suggest she suffers from insomnia. In other words, Alan, we think you can't take Ms Porter in the firm. Our Predictive Workforce Expenditure Model shows that she will cost you at least 15% more in lost productivity. Not to mention the patterns in her Facebook entries suggesting a 75% chance for her to become pregnant in the next 18 months, again according to our models." "Not exactly a disease from what I know. But OK, let's move on".

Gangnam Style dance-off escalates into gang shootout in Bangkok

The dance has inspired a host of parodies, the song has hit the top of the charts in South Korea, Malaysia, Finland and Latvia, and the YouTube video has accumulated more than 227m views. Now, according to Thai media, Gangnam Style, by the K-pop star Psy, has inspired a West Side Story-esque show of rivalry between two Bangkok gangs who are said to have had a dance-off before engaging in a gun battle. The INN website reported that the two gangs were dining in the same restaurant when "the younger members of both groups danced provocatively at each other in the manner of top hit Gangnam Style". The dance-off escalated into an argument and, eventually, a gun attack in the upmarket Ekkamai neighbourhood, in which one of the gangs fired at least 50 bullets from a carbine and an 11mm gun.

Tough times on the road to Starcraft

With everyone looking critically at StarCraft, it was clear that the project needed to be vastly more ambitious than our previous ground-breaking efforts in defining the future of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre with the first two Warcraft games.At the time of the StarCraft reboot, according to Johnny Wilson, then Editor in Chief of Computer Gaming World, the largest-distribution gaming magazine of that time, there were over eighty (80!!) RTS games in development. With so many competitors on our heels, including Westwood Studios, the company that originated the modern RTS play-style, we needed to make something that kicked ass.

Tough times on the road to Starcraft