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Castlevania Coming To Wii

Konami Digital Entertainment GmbH is to bring its world-famous Castlevania series to Nintendo Wii in the form of Castlevania Judgment, an all-new action title featuring a wealth of characters from the series’ 22-year history.

Created by series creator Koji ‘IGA’ Igarashi, Castlevania Judgment is a roving fighting game utilising heroes and villains from the Castlevania universe. The fighting game has been designed specifically for the Wii, and uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers to offer a stunning level of control over the central heroes. Taking centre stage within a series of 3D locations inspired by previous Castlevania games, the controllers are used to slash, stab and employ a series of attacks against the assorted minions of Dracula.

Each of the beautifully realised stages are fully interactive, and as the player battles their way through, various elements can be picked up, thrown, or used against the forces of evil — players can even make use of monsters on the field, while traps can also be set by specific characters. Castlevania Judgment also makes use of the Wii’s Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing players to fight with online friends in one-on-one settings, while the game also enjoys connectivity with Igarashi’s forthcoming Nintendo DS title Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, allowing users to unlock a very surprising bonus.

Featuring visuals from acclaimed artist Takeshi Obata, Castlevania Judgment sees the series’ famed Belmont clan enter fresh territory as their fighting skills are extended for this all-new challenge. With a huge cast of well-known monsters and undead adversaries, Castlevania Judgment marks a new chapter in the story of one of gaming’s most enduring series.

A Green Solution To Biofuel Production

With the current drive towards production of alternative fuels from plant material, enzymes which can break down this material into useable compounds are required in industrial quantities and at a low cost. One group of scientists from Texas A&M University have come up with a solution: using plants to make the enzymes. Professor Zivko Nikolov, who leads the Bioseparations Lab, will describe their research on Monday 7th July at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting in Marseille [Session P2].

Traditional methods of generating enzymes for biofuel production currently operate at over five times the target cost required to make the fuels financially competitive. By using plants which have been engineered to make the proteins, Professor Nikolov believes that the target can be met. His group, which has expertise in the development of economic processing techniques, have designed processing strategies which allow multiple products to be obtained from each crop, making the whole process more economically viable. "One of our projects focuses on producing cellulases, enzymes which can break down biomass, in maize seed. By carefully designing the processing chain, from a single crop of maize we can deliver oil that can be turned into biodiesel, cellulose that can be used to make other biofuels, and fibre and protein which can be used as animal feed, as well, of course as the enzymes themselves," he reveals. "These multiple products offset the outlay on the enzyme purification process, meaning we can make enzymes far more cost-effectively than is achievable using traditional fermentation methods, a result which we can also see in a similar sugarcane processing project."

In the 1990s there was much interest in using plants to make both industrial enzymes and pharmaceuticals, but in the last five years such industrial enzyme developments have gone out of fashion, largely due to production costs that simply weren’t viable, combined with public unease. Now Professor Nikolov’s group have brought this technology back into the picture. "The economic improvements that we have delivered to the processing pathway, combined with a greater public acceptance of transgenic plants, mean that we can now develop the full potential of this technology. This in turn will bring us a step closer to the vital challenge of generating cheap alternative fuels over the coming decades," he concludes.

[Holly Astley @ Society for Experimental Biology]

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The Microsoft Tax That Can’t Be Beat

Microsoft has been and still is the company that everyone loves to hate. In this article by Richard Stallman, the criticisms continue. Most of what Mr. Stallman states has been said before. That Microsoft is a big bully that controls the computer market by fear and intimidation. But the article also states that other software companies are also to blame and include Apple, Adobe,  ‘and the rest‘ [whoever that might be,], are just as bad as Microsoft.

But than there is this statement:

Many outside the computer field credit Microsoft for advances which it only took advantage of, such as making computers cheap and fast, and convenient graphical user interfaces. 

Interesting. Is this true? Do we need to credit Microsoft for bringing about cheap and fast computers?

The article also states:

Microsoft’s software is distributed under licenses that keep users divided and helpless. The users are divided because they are forbidden to share copies with anyone else. The users are helpless because they don’t have the source code that programmers can read and change.

If you’re a programmer and you want to change the software, for yourself or for someone else, you can’t.

If you’re a business and you want to pay a programmer to make the software suit your needs better, you can’t. If you copy it to share with your friend, which is simple good-neighbourliness, they call you a “pirate”.

Should programmers be allowed to modify Microsoft software as stated above?

What do you think? Is Microsoft a villain? Or have they contributed more to the computer industry than they have taken away?

Comments welcome.

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Google Does Chat with ‘Lively’

Google has targeted the chat demographic with its launch of ‘Lively’:

"...The Lively download requires Windows Vista/XP with either Internet Explorer or Firefox. It also requires either a Google account or a Facebook account, since you can also create Lively rooms on Facebook."

link: Google looks Lively, goes for "a 3D virtual experience"

It may be overly suspicious of Google's game plan. However, it would be very easy to have the avatar characters chat in a Starbucks environment, for example. Advertising could be embedded in the background displays. The chat space could be an ideal means of delivering secondary, subtle advertising. Chat would just be the delivery system.

Catherine Forsythe

China’s Policies Treasure Both Environment And People

Two of the world’s largest environmental programs in China are generally successful, although key reforms could transform them into a model for the rest of the world, according to new research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jianguo "Jack" Liu, Michigan State University Distinguished Professor and lead researcher on the project, and several colleagues reviewed China’s Natural Forest Conservation and Grain to Green programs that together represent a government investment of more than 500 billion yuan ($72 billion-plus).

During the past three decades, China’s economy has grown the fastest among all major nations, yet its environmental crises have been as supersized as its population. The two conservation programs were introduced after natural disasters — drought in 1997 and massive floods in 1998 — wreaked havoc on land weakened by deforestation.

"China has experienced many environmental crises; the 1998 flash floods alone affected more than 200 million people," Liu said. "This is a new way of thinking for China. They have begun to realize the importance of dealing with environmental issues in relation to social and economic issues, and it is paying off."

The forest conservation program was designed to rectify the damage caused by years of unfettered logging, which has led to soil erosion, devastation of habitat such as pandas and other environmental problems. It uses logging bans to replace forests through incentives to forest enterprises. The Grain to Green program works to convert cropland on steep slopes to forest and grassland by providing farmers with grain and cash subsidies.

Both programs seek to alleviate environmental problems and offer alternative ways for people to make a living. They also have important global implications because they increase vegetative cover, enhance carbon sequestration and reduce dust to other countries by controlling soil erosion.

The bottom line: Both programs are working for the environment and the Chinese people. Yet Liu and his colleagues point out that the complexities and the scale of the programs are not without problems. The forest conservation program, for example, put many loggers out of work and caused financial trouble for some small governments that rely heavily on the industry.

Among the authors’ recommendations: Establish endowments for the conservation efforts and seek funding from industry beneficiaries such as hydropower plants and even other countries such as the United States. They also recommend local governments and farmers become more involved in planning the programs, as opposed to the "traditional top-down" approach dominated by the central government.

But overall, the authors found that the programs are landmark efforts that reward cooperation to solve large-scale environmental problems and consider human well-being. Continuing both programs, they say, is important, as is using them as a model.

"Research has demonstrated that if these policies don’t continue, it’s likely a lot of the land that has returned to forest and grassland will be converted to cropland again," Liu said. "The conservation benefits will be lost. It is important to take a comprehensive and holistic approach to sustaining these programs."

Liu added that many Chinese citizens depend on the forest for basic survival.

"In many parts of the countryside, there is no access to electricity or electricity is not affordable economically so fuel wood is the main source of energy," he said. "Having no forest would result in no means of heating houses or cooking for their children. Environmental problems have tremendous economic and social implications and also create a lot of social conflict as people compete for resources.

"You’re talking about people’s lives depending on the environment on a daily basis — not just a weekend vacation."

[Andy Henion @ Michigan State University]

[awsbullet:conservation]

Elton Brand Goes to Philadelphia

The Los Angeles Clippers are far from their 2008 – 2009 season and already their fans are suffering. Elton Brand has agreed to terms with the Philadelphia 76ers. It is a five year – eight two million dollar contract. Elton Brand had indicated that he was staying with the Clippers, until the big dollar offers started to come.

Earlier in this off-season, the Clippers had signed Baron Davis. The future looked bright with the pairing of Elton Brand and Baron Davis. Now it looks like Baron Davis will be the main feature in yet another year of rebuilding for the Clippers.

The Clippers also have lost Cory Maggette to the Golden State Warriors. With both Cory Maggette and Elton Brand gone, the Clipper offense loses about forty two points in production. That will be difficult to replace immediately.

One can’t help but feel sorry for Baron Davis. It is now speculation whether he would have come to terms with the Clippers, if he had known that Elton Brand was leaving. It’s tough being a Clipper fan. The season had such promise. At least the Clipper fans can take consolation that they have a team, unlike the basketball faithful in Seattle. They had to watch the whole NBA franchise leave town.

Catherine Forsythe

PicLens

I found a rather unique and fun addon for Firefox this morning.  It’s called PicLens and it allows you to search videos. products and photos in a 3D environment.  It works with YouTube, Google Image Search, My Space, Amazon and many more.  When you open the program you are transported to “The Wall” and are able to select from hundreds or thousands of videos, pictures, etc.  Catch up on news and sports or shop products from Amazon.  At any time jump to the associated web page easily with one click.

I just used it to look up Chris’ videos and I must say, I like it.  Although it might be more eye candy than anything, it is kind of fun.  check out the demo HERE and download it HERE.

Apple 3G iPhone – Deal Or No Deal?

I remember when I first saw the prototype of the Apple iPhone. One word came to my mind. Stunning. It was a very impressive piece of equipment, gadget, computer, phone all wrapped into one. So when the newest 3G iPhone hits the street this Friday, will it be a big hit like the original was?

There are already several issues facing both Apple & AT&T.  First we have the Canadians who will not get the new phone because of their carrier which was trying to price gouge them. Second is the cost. Is the iPhone really half the price? Not really. According to this article which states:

The other drastic change is the iPhone’s price: $200 for the 8-gigabyte model, $300 for the 16-gig. Those are terrific prices for a machine with so much sophistication, utility and power; a year ago, an 8-gig iPhone would have cost you $600.

But the iPhone 3G is not really, as Apple’s Web site puts it, “half the price.” The basic AT&T plan — unlimited Internet and 450 minutes of calling — now costs $70 a month instead of $60 (plus taxes and fees), and comes with no text messages instead of 200. (Adding text messaging costs at least $5 a month more.)

True, iPhone 3G service now matches the plans for AT&T’s other 3G phones; still, by the end of your two-year contract, the iPhone 3G will have cost you more than the old iPhone, not less.

Also there is the issue of coverage. Though AT&T will expand the coverage area in the future, you may wish to check what coverage is available before you buy. AT&T has a map that you can view for all AT&T services here. Make sure to turn on ‘View 3G/ mobile broadband.’

There are improvements in voice quality, the GPS is better though it cannot provide turn by turn directions, and the look and feel is sleeker.

Now a question for you. How many of you iPhone users will toss the original and buy a new iPhone? Is the cost worth the faster connection speeds?

Comments welcome.

PS Mr. cheapskate here is still waiting for the Google phone. :-)

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Football Field Ranged Bluetooth

A new bluetooth headset by Hammacher Schlemmer boasts a range of 328 feet, just over the length of a football field and claims to be the longest ranged bluetooth headset available.   It uses the Bluetooth 2.0 specification and enhanced audio channel technology, which provides three times the transmission speed of older Bluetooth® headsets (up to 2.1 Mb per second), and removes echoes, pops, and clicks, resulting in consistently crystal-clear reception while consuming less power. Its built-in lithium-ion battery provides talk times up to eight hours with a three-hour charge from its included AC charger. It can be paired with two compatible devices at the same time (for Skype calls from your computer) at the touch of a button.

These devices continue to get smaller and more powerful.  I even saw one that can be implanted into your tooth with a simple procedure at the dentist.  It allows you to hear the conversation in your head and speak normally to answer.  How long before these devices are implanted directly into our brains?

tra_phone_pic

Personally, I’ve never really liked the bluetooth headsets.  Not because they don’t work well, but because people tend to look at me funny when they can’t see the device on my ear.  They think I’m some kind of crazy person talking to myself or something.  Not to mention I can never keep up with the darn things and loose them regularly.

If you do like them, this one will run you about $120.00

bluetooth

gAttach – Attach Files Easily To GMail & Google Apps Mail

gAttach is a free utility that helps user of GMail and Google Apps Mail to attach items quickly. The software itself is a freebie and the download, which is only 1MB in size, uses few resources on your system.gAttach actually changes the  ‘Mail to’ and ‘Send to’ button and to use Gmail instead of Outlook or another mail client on your system. No more Outlook Express pop-ups for us XP users, which is a nice touch. According to the web site:

What can it do?

With gAttach!, you can:

  • send emails directly from:
    • Windows Explorer
    • Microsoft Office
    • Adobe Acrobat
    • Windows Live Photo Gallery
    • Internet Explorer
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • .. and many more
  • automatically attach files from your PC to a new email without manually uploading each file;
  • choose to suppress the annoying standard text provided by Windows (“Your attachments are ready to send..”);
  • handle “mailto” email links in web pages.

Where do I get it?

Right here. The current version is 1.2008.7.2 (released 2 July 2008; see version history). The software is free to download and use, though donations are appreciated.

How does it work?

Choose to send your email from any application!

There is also a yAttach for Yahoo users as well. 

But most importantly here are the specs:

You just need a Gmail account and a PC running Windows 2000, XP, 2003 or Vista. The software requires something called the .NET Framework 2.0, though you most likely have this installed already. If you don’t, you’ll be asked to download it. 

Comments welcome.

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