Electron and the Decline of Native Apps

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SwiftOnSecurity, regarding Microsoft’s switch to Chromium as Windows’s built-in rendering engine: This isn’t about Chrome. This is about ElectronJS. Microsoft thinks EdgeHTML cannot get to drop-in feature-parity with Chromium to replace it in Electron apps, whose duplication is becoming a significant performance drain. They want to single-instance Electron with their own fork. Electron is a cancer murdering both macOS and Windows as it proliferates. Microsoft must offer a drop-in version with native optimizations to improve performance and resource utilization. This is the end of desktop applications. There’s nowhere but JavaScript.

John Gruber of DaringFireball: I don’t share the depth of their pessimism regarding native apps, but Electron is without question a scourge. I think the Mac will prove more resilient than Windows, because the Mac is the platform that attracts people who care. But I worry. In some ways, the worst thing that ever happened to the Mac is that it got so much more popular a decade ago. In theory, that should have been nothing but good news for the platform — more users means more attention from developers. The more Mac users there are, the more Mac apps we should see.

The problem is, the users who really care about good native apps — users who know HIG violations when they see them, who care about performance, who care about Mac apps being right — were mostly already on the Mac. A lot of newer Mac users either don’t know or don’t care about what makes for a good Mac app.

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Microsoft’s Surface Roadmap Reportedly Includes Ambient Computing and a Modular All-in-One PC

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Journalist Brad Sams is releasing a book chronicling the company’s Surface brand: Beneath a Surface. VentureBeat writes: While you’ll want to read all 26 chapters to get the juicy details, the last one includes Microsoft’s hardware roadmap for 2019, and even a part of 2020 — spanning various Surface products and even a little Xbox. Here’s a quick rundown of Microsoft’s current Surface lineup plans:

Spring 2019: A new type of Surface-branded ambient computing device designed to address “some of the common frustrations of using a smartphone,” but that isn’t itself a smartphone.
Q4 2019: Surface Pro refresh with USB-C (finally), smaller bezels, rounded corners, and new color options.
Q4 2019: AMD-based Surface Laptop — Microsoft is exploring using the Picasso architecture.
Late 2019: Microsoft’s foldable tablet Andromeda could be larger than earlier small form factor prototypes for a pocketable device with dual screens and LTE connectivity.
Q1 2020: Surface Book update that might include new hinge designs (high-end performance parts may delay availability).
2020: A Surface monitor, and the modular design debuted for Surface Hub 2 could make its way to Surface Studio. The idea is to bring simple upgrades to all-in-one PCs, rather than having to replace the whole computer. GeekWire adds: A pair of new lower-cost devices Xbox One S devices could come next year. Sams reports that one of the models may be all digital, without a disc drive.

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Does Switching Jobs Make You a Worse Programmer?

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Slashdot reader theodp shares some thoughts from Virginia-based cloud architect Forrest Brazeal, who believes that switching jobs or teams makes you — at least temporarily — a worse programmer:
“When you do take a new job,” Brazeal writes, “everybody else will know things you don’t know. You’ll expend an enormous amount of time and mental energy just trying to keep up. This is usually called ‘the learning curve’. The unstated assumption is that you must add new knowledge on top of the existing base of knowledge you brought from your previous job in order to succeed in the new environment.
“But that’s not really what’s happening. After all, some of your new coworkers have never worked at any other company. You have way more experience than they do. Why are they more effective than you right now? Because, for the moment, your old experience doesn’t matter. You don’t just need to add knowledge; you need to replace a wide body of experiences that became irrelevant when you turned in your notice at the old job. To put it another way: if you visualize your entire career arc as one giant learning curve, the places where you change jobs are marked by switchbacks.”
He concludes, “I’m not saying you shouldn’t switch jobs. Just remember that you can’t expect to be the same person in the new cubicle. Your value is only partly based on your own knowledge and ingenuity. It’s also wrapped up in the connections you’ve made inside your team: your ability to help others, their shared understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, and who knows what else. You will have to figure out new paths of communication in the new organization, build new backlogs of code references pertaining to your new projects, and find new mentors who can help you continue to grow. You will have to become a different programmer.
“There is no guarantee you will be a better one.”
This seems counter-intuitive to me — but what do Slashdot’s readers think? Does switching jobs make you a worse programmer?

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Ask Slashdot: What Kind of Keyboard Do You Use With Your Computer and Why?

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An anonymous reader writes: Hello all. I am looking to buy a good mechanical keyboard for my everyday usage — programming and writing. I see some good offers on certain keyboards — thanks to Black Friday deals. Just this week, Razer launched what looks like a good mechanical keyboard for people who are looking for a budget gear. One of the issues I have come across looking for a good keyboard is how most of them are designed for Windows OS by default. (I know you can customize keys, but.) Slashdot has run keyboard discussion posts in the past — the best laptop with best keyboard, greatest keyboard ever made, and quest to find a good keyboard , but I don’t see any recent story on this. I was curious to know what kind of keyboard you use and why did you choose the one you have?

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Mid-Range Google ‘Pixel 3 Lite’ Leaks With Snapdragon 670, Headphone Jack

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The first alleged images of the rumored “budget” Pixel 3 have been leaked. The Pixel 3 Lite, as it is being called, looks very similar to the Pixel 3, although it features a plastic build construction, slower processor, and a headphone jack. 9to5Google reports: Just like the standard Pixel 3, there’s a display that’s roughly 5.56-inches in size, but this time it’s an IPS LCD panel at 2220×1080 rather than an OLED panel. Obviously, there’s also no notch to be seen on this alleged Pixel 3 Lite. There’s a single front-facing camera as well as one speaker above that display, relatively thick bezels on the top and bottom, and a speaker along the bottom of the device as well.

Perhaps most interesting when it comes to the hardware, though, is that there’s a headphone jack on the top of the phone. That’s certainly unexpected since the Pixel 2 dropped the jack and Google hasn’t looked back since. Tests from Rozetked reveal some of the specifications running this device as well. That includes a Snapdragon 670 chipset, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Previous reports have pointed to a Snapdragon 710. Battery capacity on this device is also reported at 2915 mAh and there’s a USB-C port along the bottom. It is rumored to include the same 12MP and 8MP cameras found in the standard Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, which will be a huge selling point for the affordable phone market. The price is expected to be around $400-500.

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A New Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ Has Arrived With Bluetooth 4.2 and Dual-Band Wi-Fi For $25

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Raspberry Pi has introduced a new version of one of its most popular models just in time to stuff your stocking: the Model A+. And this time around, it’s even more attractive. From a report: The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ costs $25, $5 more than the previous generation, but has a lot more going for it. Just like the top-of-the-line Model B+, the new Model A+ has a 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core processor, and you’ll also get dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz + 5 GHz), a feature that was missing from the previous A+. And you’ll have to use it, since the A+ doesn’t have an Ethernet port. It does, however, have Bluetooth 4.2 on board. For $10 less than the $35 Model B+, you’ll also only get a single USB port (versus four on the B+) as well as 512MB of RAM (versus 1GB on the B+). But otherwise, the devices are identical, with a full-size HDMI port, CSI camera port, DSI display port, stereo output and composite video port, and a micro SD port. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ isn’t the cheapest Pi model available — the Zero costs $5 and the Zero W costs just $10 — but it rounds out the options nicely. The new model is available now through Raspberry Pi retailers.

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What Does It Take To Keep a Classic IBM 1401 Mainframe Alive?

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“Think your vintage computer hardware is old?” writes long-time Slashdot reader corrosive_nf. “Ken Shirriff, Robert Garne, and their associates probably have you beat.

“The IBM 1401 was introduced in 1959, and these guys are keeping one alive in a computer museum… [T]he volunteers have to go digging through historical archives and do some detective work to figure out solutions to pretty much anything!”

Many things that we take for granted are done very differently in old computers. For instance, the IBM 1401 uses 6-bit characters, not bytes. It used decimal memory addressing, not binary. It’s also interesting how much people could accomplish with limited resources, running a Fortran compiler on the 1401 with just 8K of memory. Finally, working on the 1401 has given them a deeper understanding of how computers really work. It’s not a black box; you can see the individual transistors that are performing operations and each ferrite core that stores a bit.
“It’s a way of keeping history alive,” says one of the volunteers at Silicon Valley’s Computer History museum. “For museum visitors, seeing the IBM 1401 in operation gives them a feeling for what computers were like in the 1960s, the full experience of punching data onto cards and then seeing and hearing the system processing cards….
“So far, things are breaking slowly enough that we can keep up, so it’s more of a challenge than an annoyance.”

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Samsung Will Put Notches On Its Future Phones

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Samsung is one of the biggest smartphone makers to hold off on releasing smartphones with display notches. But at the company’s developer conference today, Samsung confirmed that it’s soon going to join in on the trend. “A slide during the keynote showed several notch designs that are almost certainly coming to Samsung-branded devices in 2019 and beyond,” reports The Verge. From the report: Hassan Anjum, a director of product marketing at Samsung, took the stage to highlight Samsung’s previous breakthroughs in reducing bezels and maximizing display size year after year. “We’re going to keep going. The bezels are going to shrink even further,” Anjum said. “We’re going to push the limits with our new lineup: the Infinity U, V, and O displays. These are new concepts that are just around the corner, and I can’t wait to tell you more about them.” Infinity U: This basically looks identical to the Essential Phone’s notch design. It’s a small half oval that cuts down into the top middle of the display.
Infinity V: Similar to Infinity U, but with four edges instead of a curved half-oval.
Infinity O: This is a full circular cutout of the display and not so much a “notch” the top edge of the screen. Still, it seems like an eyesore and it’s hard to imagine reaction to this being very positive. What’s gained by that little area of display above it? Asus seems to be exploring a similar idea for its ZenFone 6, and feedback has been overwhelmingly bad.
New Infinity: This looks to be a completely notchless display. Anjum didn’t discuss this one onstage, and the technology isn’t quite there to allow for this design just yet. That said, Samsung could be exploring the idea of a slider phone that would house the selfie camera and other components somewhere outside their usual location.

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Mac Mini Receives First Overhaul in Four Years; New iPad Pro With No Home Button Announced

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Apple is turning its attention to a range of devices it has not upgraded in recent years. Alongside the new MacBook Air that the company unveiled on Tuesday, it is also upgrading the Mac Mini for the first time in four years, and also has a new iPad Pro in the offering. Regarding the new Mac Mini: It has Intel’s 8th generation processors — in four- and six-core i7, i5, and i3 flavors — and 60 percent faster graphics. The processor’s paired with up to 64GB of RAM (8GB comes on standard) at 2666MHz and up to 2TB of SSD storage — double the capacity of previous Mac Minis. Overall, it’s up to 5 times faster than the previous-gen models, Apple claims, and can drive 4K and 5K Thunderbolt displays and output in three formats. In terms of ports, there’s plenty to go around: two USB-A, HDMI 2.0 video, four Thunderbolt USB-C, an audio out port, and a Gigbabit Ethernet port (you can add up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, if you so choose). Also onboard is Apple’s T2 chip. It’s a 64-bit ARMv8 chip — a variant of Apple’s A10 — that runs Apple’s custom BridgeOS 2.0 operating system (an Apple watch derivative). The new Mac Mini starts at $799. Regarding the new iPad Pro: After months of rumors, Apple has today announced a completely redesigned iPad Pro with slimmed-down bezels, Face ID, a USB-C port, and far more powerful specs than its predecessor. Just like prior years, the new iPad Pro comes in two screen sizes: 11-inch and 12.9-inch. The 11-inch model has essentially the same proportions as the prior 10.5-inch model. And the 12.9-inch model puts the same-sized display into a much smaller form factor. The new iPad Pro starts at $799 for the 11-inch and $999 for the 12.9-inch. Preorders begin today and it ships November 7th. The new Pro is the company’s first iPad not to include a home button, which allowed Apple to extend the screen vertically for a much more immersive experience. The bezels have been downsized on all four sides. […] But something else has been removed, too: the headphone jack. There’s no 3.5mm port visible on any of the device’s sides, meaning that buyers will need a USB-C-to-headphone dongle to listen to music through wired headphones. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799. The 12.9-inch version starts at $999. It goes on sale today and ships on November 7.

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16-Year-Old Dethrones Tetris World Champion With Difficult Hyper-Tap Technique

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Over the weekend, seven-time winner Jonas Neubauer showed up at the Classic Tetris World Championship in Portland, Oregon like he has every year since it moved there in 2011. Instead of adding another championship to his name, he finished in second place this time, bested by 16-year-old Joseph Saelee who went on an amazing three-game tear. From a report: “The kid played with pure heart, the most clutch Tetris that we’ve seen from anyone,” Neubauer said after the dust had settled. “He just really had the ability, had the natural ability, and let it shine as bright as he could in his first tournament. [It’s] truly an honor to pass the torch to the new generation of Tetris players.” The veteran stood on stage holding a silver trophy, his first since losing to Harry Hong in 2014, and the unlikely Saelee, tears still in his eyes, hoisted the gold to applause from the crowd at Sunday’s Retro Game Expo crowd. Though Tetris came out on the NES in 1989, the Classic World Championship tournament as it exists today didn’t get started until 2010 after the game’s competitive scene spent most of the aughts trading strategies, high scores, and footage evidence throughout a scattered network of forums and websites. Now, top players from around the world compete annually at the Expo using the original game and controllers played on old CRTs to see who can get the highest score in individual head-to-head matchups.

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Steam VR Introduces ‘Motion Smoothing’ So Low-End PCs Can Run Games More Smoothly

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Steam VR is introducing a new feature called “Motion Smoothing” that will give PCs with low-end hardware the power to deliver VR experiences more smoothly. “It functions like Motion Smoothing for TV and Asynchronous Spacewarp for Oculus devices, which are frame-rate smoothing techniques that generate synthetic frames between two real ones in order to avoid a stuttery experience,” notes Engadget. From the report:
When Steam VR determines that an experience is lagging or dropping frames, Motion Smoothing automatically kicks in. It drops an app’s framerate from 90FPS to 45FPS and generates a synthetic frame for every real one to mimic real 90FPS. If things get especially bad, it can generate two to three frames for every real one instead. Steam explains that the feature “dramatically [lowers] the performance requirements,” allowing PCs with lower end hardware to “produce smooth frames.” Take note, however, that the feature will not work with the Oculus Rift or with Windows Mixed Reality headsets. You can only take advantage of it if you have an HTC Vive or a Vive Pro, and if you’re running Windows 10 — all you need to do is right-click on Steam VR and select beta under Tools in Library.

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Samsung Announces Galaxy Book 2, a 2-in-1 Windows 10 S Hybrid With Gigabit LTE and 20-Hour Battery Life

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At an event in New York City today, the Seoul, South Korea electronics giant took the wraps off of the Galaxy Book 2, a Windows ultraportable powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 850 chip. From a report: The only catch? It runs Windows 10 S, a slimmed-down version of Microsoft’s operating system that can only run applications from the Windows Store — specifically Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and Win32 apps that Microsoft has explicitly approved (including, but not limited to, Microsoft Office). You can upgrade to Windows 10 for free, of course, but it’s an emulated experience. But if that doesn’t bother you, you’ll be able to pick up a Book 2 at AT&T, Microsoft, and Samsung stores online for $999.99 starting November 2, 2018. It’ll hit brick and mortar at AT&T, Sprint and Verizon later in the month. The Book2 — which measures 11.32 x 7.89 x 30 inches and weighs in at 1.75 pounds — looks sort of like Microsoft’s Surface. Its gorgeous 12-inch 2,160 by 1,440-pixel AMOLED display (216 pixels per inch) is fully compatible with Samsung’s S Pen stylus, which comes bundled in the box (along with a detachable keyboard that attaches magnetically to the bottom bezel), allowing you to scribble notes and mark up documents easily. The screen’s paired with stereo speakers tuned by Samsung subsidiary AKG Acoustic with support for Dolby Atmos, a premium audio format for multichannel surround sound setups, and there’s two cameras onboard: a front-facing 5-megapixel camera on tap and an 8-megapixel camera on the rear. Under the hood is the aforementioned Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 system-on-chip paired with 4GB of RAM, comprising four high-performance processor cores running at 2.96 GHz and four power-efficient cores clocked at 1.7 GHz.

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Palm Is Back With a Mini Companion Android Phone That’s Exclusive To Verizon

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A couple months ago, it was reported that the dearly departed mobile brand known as Palm would be making a comeback. That day has finally come. Yesterday, Palm announced The Palm, a credit card-sized Android smartphone that’s supposed to act as a second phone. Droid Life reports: The Palm, which is its name, is a mini-phone with a 3.3-inch HD display that’s about the size of a credit card, so it should fit nicely in your palm. It could be put on a chain or tossed in a small pocket or tucked just about anywhere, thanks to that small size. It’s still a mostly fully-featured smartphone, though, with cameras and access to Android apps and your Verizon phone number and texts.

The idea here is that you have a normal phone with powerful processor and big screen that you use most of the time. But when you want to disconnect some, while not being fully disconnected, you could grab Palm instead of your other phone. It uses Verizon’s NumberSync to bring your existing phone number with you, just like you would if you had an LTE smartwatch or other LTE equipped device. Some of the specs of this Verizon-exclusive phone include a Snapdragon 435 processor with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, 12MP rear and 8MP front cameras, 800mAh battery, IP68 water and dust resistance, and Android 8.1. As Kellen notes, “It does cost $350, which is a lot for a faux phone…” We’ve already seen a number of gadget fans perplexed by this device. Digital Trends goes as far as calling it “the stupidest product of the year.”

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Qualcomm’s New Wi-Fi Chips Are Meant To Rival 5G Speeds

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“Qualcomm is launching a family of chips that can add incredibly high-speed Wi-Fi — at speeds up to 10 gigabits per second — to phones, laptops, routers, and so on,” reports The Verge. The Wi-Fi standard used for something like replacing a virtual reality headset’s data cable with a high-speed wireless link is being updated. Qualcomm’s latest chips improve a wireless technology called WiGig, which relies on a connection standard known as 802.11ad, which can hit speeds up to 5 gigabits per second over close to 10 meters. The new generation of that wireless standard, called 802.11ay, can reach speeds twice as fast, and can do so up to 100 meters away, according to Dino Bekis, the head of Qualcomm’s mobile and compute connectivity group. The Wi-Fi Alliance says the new standard “increases the peak data rates of WiGig and improves spectrum efficiency and reduces latency.” From the report: So why not just use this as normal Wi-Fi, given how fast it gets? Because that range is only line-of-sight — when there’s literally nothing in the way between the transmitter and the receiver. This high-speed Wi-Fi is based on millimeter wave radio waves in the 60GHz range. That means it’s really fast, but also that it has a very difficult time penetrating obstacles, like a wall. That’s a problem if you want a general purpose wireless technology. That’s why 802.11ay, like 802.11ad before it, is being used as an optional add-on to existing Wi-Fi technology. If you’re one of the people who has a need for these extreme wireless speeds, then maybe you’ll find a use for it. Just keep in mind, you’ll probably need to keep your router and the device receiving these high speeds in the same room in order for it to work, due to the whole “walls” issue. WiGig will also be competing with 5G, as it offers “similarly fast speeds over similarly limited distances,” reports The Verge. “[T]he two standards may be competing as an option for delivering internet from a tower to a home — that’s what Facebook’s Terragraph is doing with WiGig, and it’s what Verizon is doing with 5G.”

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Slashdot Asks: Can Anything Replace ‘QWERTY’ Keyboards?

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MIT Technology Review recently discussed new attempts to replace the standard ‘QWERY’ keyboard layout, including Tap, “a one-handed gadget that fits over your fingers like rubbery brass knuckles and connects wirelessly to your smartphone.”
It’s supposed to free you from clunky physical keyboards and act as a go-anywhere typing interface. A promotional video shows smiling people wearing Tap and typing with one hand on a leg, on an arm, and even (perhaps jokingly) on some guy’s forehead… But when I tried it, the reality of using Tap was neither fun nor funny. Unlike a conventional QWERTY keyboard, Tap required me to think a lot, because I had to tap my fingers in not-very-intuitive combinations to create letters: an A is your thumb, a B is your index finger and pinky, a C is all your fingers except the index.
The article also acknowledges the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout and other alternatives like the one-handed Twiddler keyboard, but argues that “neither managed to dent QWERTY’s dominance.”
[W]hat if the future is no input interface at all? Neurable is a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that’s working on a way to type simply by thinking. It uses an electrode-dotted headband connected to a VR headset to track brain activity. Machine learning helps figure out what letter you’re trying to select and anticipate which key you’ll want next. After you select several keys, it can fill in the rest of the word, says cofounder and CEO Ramses Alcaide…. Then there’s the device being built over at CTRL-Labs: an armband that detects the activity of muscle fibers in the arm. One use could be to replace gaming controllers. For another feature in the works, algorithms use the data to figure out what it is that your hands are trying to type, even if they’re barely moving. CEO and cofounder Thomas Reardon, who previously created Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, says this too is a neural interface, of a sort. Whether you’re typing or dictating, you’re using your brain to turn muscles on and off, he points out.
While a developer version will be shipped this year, Reardon “admits that it is still not good enough for him to toss his trusty mid-’80s IBM Model M keyboard, which he says still ‘sounds like rolling thunder’ when he types.” But do any Slashdot readers have their own suggestions or experiences to share?

Can anything replace ‘QWERTY’ keyboards?

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RIP Greg Stafford, a Fundamental Personage of the RPG Industry

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“The first published RPG was Dungeons & Dragons, shortly followed by some other imitative games,” Greg Stafford once said. “Chaosium, however, was never content to imitate but published games that were original in style of play, content and design.”
Greg Stafford died Thursday at the age of 71. Long-time Slashdot reader argStyopa shares this memorial from Chaosium’s Michael O’Brien.

As one of the greatest game designers of all time; winner of too many awards to count; and a friend, mentor, guide, and inspiration to generations of gamers, “the Grand Shaman of Gaming” influenced the universe of tabletop gaming beyond measure. Greg founded The Chaosium in 1975… Under his leadership, the company quickly became renowned for its originality and creativity, and was responsible for introducing numerous things to the hobby that are standards today. As John Wick (7th Sea, Legend of the Five Rings) memorably said, “The older I get, the more I hear young RPG designers say ‘Never been done before!’ And then I just point at something Greg Stafford did a few decades ago.”
Greg’s work in roleplaying games, board games, and fiction have been acclaimed as some of the most engaging and innovative of all time. There will doubtless be many valedictory messages over the coming days from the countless people that Greg inspired and enthused across his many interests and passions — Glorantha, Oaxaca, King Arthur, shamanism, mythology and more. For now, we leave you with the words of the Myth maker himself, speaking at the 2018 ENnies Awards ceremony, his last public engagement
“When I started Chaosium in 1975… we never imagined, truly, that it would reach the magnitude that it has today,” Stafford tells the audience. “It went through a long period of being some strange thing that just random geeks did… I figure when role-playing games get on The X-Files and The Simpsons, we’ve made it…”
“”It’s true that it’s not us. We’re a bunch of obsessive-compulsive, detail-minded game designers, people looking desperately for a job that doesn’t make them wear a tie to work, artists who would’ve never had a market without our industry. We all do a lot of work, but in fact we’re just a small handful of people, and truly the phenomenon that we have today is not due to us, but is due to you, the fans and the players. We really appreciate everything that you’ve done… I want to say thank you to all of you fans.”
The forum at Basic Roleplaying Central has started a condolences thread.

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The Long, Long History of Long, Long CVS Receipts

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Why is a receipt for cough drops the height of a small child? Rachel Sugar, writing for Vox: CVS is a drugstore much like other drugstores, with one important difference: The receipts are very long. How long are the receipts? For at least a decade, concerned shoppers have dedicated themselves to this question, producing a robust body of phone-picture literature on the subject. You could not major in CVS receipt studies, probably, but you could minor. Not all CVS receipts are created equal. If you, a non-loyal shopper, mosey into CVS and buy some Tylenol and a package of seasonal candy, you will get a receipt that is unspectacular (read: a normal length). To get one of the iconically long CVS receipts, you need to use your ExtraCare card, which means you need to be an ExtraCare member. (You can join as long as you are willing to turn over your name and phone number in exchange for better deals.) People on the internet have documented this phenomenon with a vigor usually reserved for cats climbing in and out of boxes. On Twitter and on Instagram, shoppers stand next to their CVS receipts, which are often as tall as they are, and sometimes taller.

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Razer Phone 2 Launches With Notch-less Display, Wireless Charging, and RGB Lighting

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Last November, Razer unveiled a smartphone designed for gamers who value performance and power over bells and whistles like waterproofing and wireless charging. At an event Wednesday night, Razer took the wraps off its successor, aptly named Razer Phone 2, which sports a brighter, notch-less, 5.72-inch IGZO LCD display with a 2560×1440 resolution and HDR, wireless charging, IP67 water- and dust-resistance rating, and RGB lighting behind the Razer logo on the rear. Given the addition of waterproofing and wireless charging, the Razer Phone 2 appears to be much more well-rounded than its predecessor, making the decision all the more difficult when shopping for a premium, high-end smartphone. AnandTech reports: This display is rated at 645 nits peak, up to 50% higher than the previous Razer Phone, and also supports HDR. Razer states that the display also has wide color gamut, which turns out to be 98.4% of DCI-P3. Also on the front, it has two front facing speakers in identical positions to the previous generation, and it has a front facing camera and sensor (albeit with swapped positions). That front camera is an 8MP f/2.0 unit, capable of recording at 1080p60, a user-requested feature for streaming and selfie recording. The front of the device is Corning Gorilla Glass 5, an upgrade from GG3 in the last generation.

When we move to the rear, things change much more noticeably. Instead of the aluminum rear, Razer has a full Gorilla Glass 5 back, which helps enable Qi Wireless Charging, a much requested feature. This is alongside QuickCharge 4+ through a Type-C cable. On the rear we have the dual cameras, this time placed in the center just above the logo. This time around Razer has gone with a 20MP Sony IMX363 f/1.75 main camera with OIS, and an 8MP Sony IMX 351 f/2.6 telephoto camera to enable some extra zoom functionality. Below the cameras is the Razer logo, which has a full 16.8million color RGB LED underneath which users can adjust through the onboard Chroma software. The Razer Phone 2 is still very much power-focused, as it features Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 CPU with a “vapor chamber cooling” which can allow the phone to draw 20-30% more power than other flagships. There’s 8GB of LPDDR4X memory, 64GB of UFS storage with support for a microSD card, and a whopping 4,000mAh. Razer says their new smartphone will be priced at $799 and will start shipping in mid-November.

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Google Home Hub Is Nothing Like Other Google Smart Displays

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On Tuesday, Google announced the Google Home Hub, a 7-inch display that gives you visual information, making it easier to control smart home appliances and view photos and the weather. The unusual thing about it is that it doesn’t run the smart display software that it introduced for third-party OEMs. Ars Technica explains: First, let’s talk about what the third-party smart displays run. When Google created its smart display software, it also came up with a turnkey solution for OEMs. So far, we’ve seen Lenovo, LG, and Samsung’s JBL all produce devices on the same basic platform. Just like with smartphones, these devices are all an extension of the Android/Qualcomm partnership — they run Android Things on Qualcomm’s SD624 Home Hub Platform. Android Things is Google’s stripped-down version of Android that is purpose-built for IoT products, and the third-party smart displays are the first commercial devices to run the OS.

Unlike regular phone Android, Android Things is not customizable by third-parties. All Android Things devices use an OS image direct from Google, and Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years. Android Things doesn’t really have an interface. It’s designed to get a device up and running and show a single app, which on the smart displays is the Google Smart Display app. Qualcomm’s “Home Hub” platform was purposely built to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software — the SD624 is for smart displays, while the less powerful SDA212 is for speakers. When it came time to build the Google Home Hub, Google didn’t use any of this. After talking to Google’s VP of product management, Diya Jolly, Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo discovered that the Home Hub is actually built on Google’s Cast platform and uses an Amlogic chip instead of Qualcomm’s SD624 Home Hub Platform.
When asked why Google was using a totally different platform from the third parties, Jolly told Amadeo, “There’s no particular reason. We just felt we could bring the experience to bear with Cast, and the experiences are the same. We would have easily given the third-parties Cast if they wanted it, but I think most developers are comfortable using Android Things.” Amadeo seems to think it has to do with the low price, as it undercuts the cheapest third-party Google smart display (Lenovo’s 8-inch model) by fifty bucks.

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Magic Leap Expands Shipments of Its AR Headset To 48 US States

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At the company’s first developer conference, Magic Leap announced they are opening orders of the Magic Leap One Creator’s Edition headset to the 48 contiguous states of the USA. If you’re in Hawaii or Alaska, no dice. TechCrunch reports: Previously, you had to be in Chicago, LA, Miami, NYC, San Francisco or Seattle in order to get your hands on it. Also, if you had previously ordered the headset in one of those cities, someone would come to you, drop it off and get you set up personally. That service is expanding to 50 cities, but you also don’t need to have someone set it up for you in order to buy one now. It’s worth reiterating that this thing costs $2,295. The company is doing a financing plan with Affirm so that interested buyers can spread the cost of the device over 24 months.

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