Girl Scouts Chapter Introduces Game Design Merit Badge

The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles have introduced a Game Design merit badge to help encourage its members to get interested in a variety of science and technology fields.

Girl-Scouts

The L.A. Girl Scouts chapter partnered with the Women in Games International organization to create a curriculum for the patch. Girls will be required to program their games as well as design them, using software called Gamestar Mechanic.

The Boy Scouts of America introduced a Game Design merit badge last month, but it does not include the programming requirement.

The Girl Scouts’ version hasn’t been approved by the national organization yet, thus it is only available to Girl Scouts in the Los Angeles chapter. According to NBC News, it’s designed for girls in 4th to 6th grade.

The games industry has recently been more aware of the gender discrepancies in its ranks. A few months ago game creators took to hashtag #1reasonwhy to talk about reasons the industry doesn’t employ enough women, uncovering issues like sexism in some workplaces. A game design merit badge could certainly be one way to get more young women interested in programming and creating games as a career.

Girl Scouts Chapter Introduces Game Design Merit Badge.

Facebook said to construct huge data center in Iowa | VentureBeat

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Your Facebook photos and likes may just be headed to a new home. Facebook is reportedly opening a new, $1.5 billion data center in Altoona, Iowa, according to The Des Moines Register.

The data center is slated to be 1.4 million square feet, compared with the already enormous 300,000 square foot Prineville, Ore. facility Facebook currently has, according to “lawmakers” who spoke with The Des Moines Register anonymously. Facebook has two other existing data centers in Lulea, Sweden and Forest City, N.C. Sweden’s bit of Facebook is much smaller at 62,000 square feet.

The lawmakers went on to say that Facebook may ask for tax credits regarding wind energy, which is increasingly becoming a preferred method of green energy. The social network prides itself on its energy consumption levels at its Prineville center, saying it hits the Department of Energy’s gold standard for data center energy “power usage effectiveness.”

Whether Facebook receives this tax credit will be up to legislators, according to the lawmakers.

Construction on the data center will reportedly happen in two segments. Facebook is said to spend $500 million on each phase. It seems the state was in competition with Nebraska for the mid-west data center.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for confirmation and will update this post upon hearing back.

Read more at VentureBeat

AnandTech | MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Review

In recent motherboard generations, the ‘in style’ thing to do is to separate the SKU line of a company into several compartments – channel/mainstream, overclocking, budget, smaller-than-ATX, X feature enabled (such as Thunderbolt), and gaming. The latest addition to the gaming scene is MSI, who have recently released their Z77 Gaming range, despite being a stones throw away from Haswell launch.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Box Board2_678x452

So when a reviewer comes across a product designated ‘gaming’, we are clearly wanting to see and feel why it is a gaming product. This would mean specific features aimed at the gaming crowd, to help reduce lag, boost frame rates, and increase the experience of the whole package. We already have contenders in this space aside from MSI – ASUS has their Republic Of Gamers range which we have rated very highly, Gigabyte has the G1 range, and ASRock wheels out Fatal1ty. Off the back of CeBIT 2013, MSI have launched four gaming boards in the Z77 range: the Z77A-GD65 Gaming, the Z77A-G45 Gaming, the Z77A-G43 Gaming and the B75A-G43 Gaming.

These motherboards come off the back of a successful gaming laptop range for MSI. In the wake of the global depression, every motherboard manufacturer needed to diversify its portfolio in order to cover itself, and MSI did this in the notebook arena. The gaming notebooks feature a red and black color scheme, which seems to be the going rate for gaming product lines:

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Top_575px

From left to right – ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional, MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming, ASUS Maximus V Formula

The only company that bucks this trend is Gigabyte, aiming for a gaming green instead, or orange for the overclocking range. MSI aim for yellow with their overclocking range – the MPower and Lightning GPUs being the prime examples (the XPower is still relatively undefined in the blue end of the spectrum). However MSI is tying their ranges together, at least in color scheme – the Gaming range will have GPUs featuring a red Twin Frozr 4 cooler, and there have been a lot of images online featuring these two with red-LED Avexir memory.

While MSI have had great success of their GPU lines (the Lightning range constantly breaks overclocking world records and is more often than not the fastest pre-overclocked version of each card), the motherboard range needs a boost. MSI is aimed primarily low to mid-range, as seen by the lack of a Z77 PLX 8747 enabled motherboard in the lineup for three-way and above – even the GD80 and MPower are non-PLX. Thus if they want to release a gaming motherboard, gamers will want the best available, especially if they have that extreme setup. The Z77A-GD65 Gaming, despite being the top of the range so far, is the one we are reviewing today. It hits the line down the middle, going for that single and dual GPU gamer, but given how close we are to Haswell, was it worth the effort?

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Overview

Speaking to MSI Europe, the reason for releasing a Z77 Gaming product line was due to the Haswell delay. They have had plans for a Z87 Gaming range since they got the specifications through for Haswell, but the additional 4-6 month delay means that the gaming range was brought forward. The only issue was that the gaming range on Z87 will have a different naming; the Z77 gaming range is a naming hybrid for now.

One of the first thoughts that popped into my mind when I started this review is ‘this looks like a normal GD65’. There are a large number of similarities:
MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Top_575px

In actual fact, we are dealing with almost the exact same layout. Same number of SATA ports, same VRM configuration, same location for OC buttons, USB ports, voltage check points, fan headers, the lot. The difference it seems is in the ‘gaming details’.

Over the base GD65 model we get a Qualcomm Atheros Killer NIC E2205-B gigabit Ethernet controller, a regular feature on the MSI Gaming notebook range. This NIC is designed to offload network features, such at packet priority, onto the NIC itself rather than the CPU, as well as bypassing the Windows network stack for high priority applications. Most motherboards now offer some form of network management tool, however these usually require CPU intervention in order to keep everything in the right order. While I cannot say that a Killer NIC is vital in improving FPS or response times, it could help reduce the ‘user’ end side of the lag in gaming. Though if you are suffering from lag due to your own computer, turn off downloads, Facebook and updates during competitions.

Similar to ASRock’s Fatal1ty range, the MSI Gaming also has a ‘Gaming Device Port’, which should allow for higher polling rate mice (500-1000 Hz) to be used. Whether a higher polling mouse rate is useful is still debatable depending on the frame rate – if you are polling up to 16-32x more than the FPS of the game, the PC has to decide on the average acceleration and location vs. the latest acceleration/location and inject it into the gaming stream appropriately.

Read the full review @ AnandTech | MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming Review.

Microsoft releases repair disk for botched KB 2823324 patch | Microsoft windows – InfoWorld

If your machine comes up with blue screens of death (BSODs) after installing Microsoft’s ill-fatedKB 2823324/MS13-036 patch, Microsoft has just made available a download that will get your system going again. The CD image is only designed to bring back PCs that absolutely cannot be booted because of KB 2823324. It does not function as a general-purpose Windows 7 System Repair Disk.

Microsoft advises that if you are able to boot your Windows 7 PC, you should remove the botched Black Tuesday patch manually.

If you can’t boot your computer, download the ISO file to any non-comatose PC. Right-click on the downloaded file and burn the ISO to a CD or USB. Then boot from the CD or USB. The KB 2823324 recovery routine proceeds automatically, with no intervention required.

Microsoft advises:

Customers who cannot successfully restart their systems after applying the 2823324 update can download this image to create a bootable DVD or USB drive with which they can boot their systems, uninstall security update 2823324, and return their systems to a normal operating state. Microsoft recommends using this ISO image only if customers cannot successfully restart their systems. Customers who can restart normally should not use this ISO image and should instead refer to Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 2839011 for instructions on how to uninstall security update 2823324.
Known Issues:
1) This will not run on old hardware (pre 2004) that does not support NX.
2) This will only run on Windows 7 32 bit installations.
3) It will not work if Bitlocker is enabled.

The ill-fated patch, which was part of this month’s Black Tuesday crop, started installing automatically on Win7 PCs nine days ago. Last Thursday, Microsoft pulled the patch, with a recommendation that the patch be removed manually.

Although the bad patch interfered with the operation of certain Kaspersky Antivirus packages, the major problems — including repeated BSODs — appeared in the Portuguese-language version of 32-bit Win7.

Source: InfoWorld.

TechCrunch: Microsoft Makes 1,000 Windows 8 Quickstart Kits Available To iOS Developers: $25 For Win 8 Pro & Parallels For Mac

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Two weeks ago, Microsoft launched its Windows 8 Quickstart kits for web developers who want to test their web apps on Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8 on their Macs. That offer sold out very quickly, but today, Microsoft announced that it is making another 1,000 of these kits available on Swish, with 10,000 more coming throughout the rest of the year.

The offer will go live at 2:30 p.m. PT today. Until then, it’s only available to DEMO attendees.

For just a $25 donation to either code.orgKhan Academy or Watsi.org, as well as $8 in shipping costs, these developers will get a copy of Windows 8 Professional, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, and “iOS to Windows porting support from top engineers.” The kits are scheduled to ship in early June.

The focus this time is on iOS developers, and anybody who wants to get one of these kits will have 60 seconds to get past a number of multiple-choice questions to prove that they are indeed developers. To get this offer, you will have to show that you know your way around UIView, UIViewController and similar topics that iOS developers are likely intimately familiar with. Last time, the offer and puzzle were geared toward web developers and was relatively easy to solve.

For now, just 1,000 of these kits are available, but Microsoft says it plans to make about 10,000 available at various app builder events in the U.S. and international dev camps throughout the year.

As Microsoft notes, the company is extending this offer because it wants iOS developers to “get started creating your own apps for Windows Store.”

Source: TechCrunch

VentureBeat: Google announces its third Google Fiber city: Provo, Utah (aka Silicon Slopes)

Just weeks after officially revealing that Google Fiber would expand into Austin, Tex., Google is announcing its third U.S. Fiber city — Provo, Utah.

Google Fiber offers download and upload speeds that are 100 times faster than the average consumer broadband Internet connection, and at a much cheaper price. The service launched in the Kansas City area back in July, which instantly prompted competing services from Time Warner Cable to boost their own offerings. The announcement of Google Fiber coming to Provo validates Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s  previously statement that this is not a side project for the company.

So why Provo? Google Fiber general manager Kevin Lo explains:

“Utah is already home to hundreds of tech companies and startups, and many of them are based in Provo. In fact, the Provo area ranks second in the nation in patent growth, and is consistently ranked as one of the top places to live and do business in the U.S. We believe the future of the Internet will be built on gigabit speeds, and we’re sure the businesses and residents of Provo already have some good ideas for what they’d build with a gig”

Read more at VentureBeat

AnandTech: Google Announces Glass Specs, Developer SDK, Shipment to Glass Explorers in Waves

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Google dropped a bunch of Glass related news today. First up are some high level specifications which posted in an FAQ document. There’s still no word about SoC or platform beyond the rumors we’ve heard in the past that Glass is like a WiFi-only Galaxy Nexus. This is the first time we’ve seen official disclosure of some level of specifications however. From the spec page we get the following, which I’ve put in a table.

Google Glass Specs
Google Glass
SoC Unknown
Display 640×360 “Equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away”
Camera 5 MP forward facing, with 720p video
Audio Bone Conduction Transducer
Connectivity 802.11b/g WiFi, Bluetooth
Storage 16 GB NAND total, 12 GB free
Battery Unknown mAh, “1 full day of typical use”
I/O microUSB
Requirements Android 4.0.3 or Higher with My Glass app

Google is very light on detail here, and doesn’t give resolution directly although it’s obvious looking at the UI Guidelines from the SDK that 640×360 is the native resolution of the projection system. There’s no explicit callout of what SoC is inside (although OMAP4 continues to be a persistent rumor) or battery size in milliamp hours or watt-hours. In addition we see the inclusion of 802.11b/g and no 802.11n, which is a bit curious, although I suspect most of the time Google Glass will be tethered to a smartphone over Bluetooth for connectivity with the companion application. Google also released the Mirror API documentation and a few sample applications alongside.

Read the full article @ AnandTech

Geek.com: Netflix will finally be moving to HTML5

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In a move that the more astute members of the video-watching populace have been waiting for, Netflix announced its plans to finally leave Microsoft Silverlight behind, and move on over to HTML5 and also modern times.

Netflix uses Silverlight, Microsoft’s answer to Flash, to stream videos across the web to both Windows and OS X computers. Unfortunately, as many Linux users lament, Silverlight was one of the barriers preventing Netflix from running on the Linux platform. Sure, you could run it through Wine, but that would certainly be overkill just to play half of that episode of West Wing so you have something to watch while you quickly eat dinner. Netflix cited Microsoft’s closure of Silverlight 5 in 2021 (currently eight years away) as the reason why it’s looking for a new platform. However, we all secretly know it’s because Silverlight was always somewhat of a silly choice, and Netflix now has a legitimate reason to leave it behind without burning a bridge withMicrosoft.

Another benefit of Netflix switching is that HTML5 isn’t a browser plugin, whereas Silverlight is. It’s not difficult to install a browser plugin, but they can create extra issues, such as certain browsers not supporting them, or some people believing they’re a security risk.

The first implementation of HTML5 Netflix will come in Chrome OS, and the company has been testing it on the ARM-based Samsung Chromebook. After they deem Chromebook testing a success, they will then move to the big boys of Windows and OS X.

As for Linux, Silverlight wasn’t the only barrier. Netflix uses a proprietary DRM that runs on Windows and OS X, but not Linux. So, it’s not yet clear if this move to HTML5 will remove the need to run Netflix in Wine. If the user comments responding to Netflix’s announcement are any indication, though, people sure want to see Netflix come to Linux.

Source: Gook.com

CNET: Former Apple Maps lead finds home at Facebook, report says

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Richard Wiliamson, who led the Apple Maps initiative, is now providing direction for Facebook’s mobile projects, according to Bloomberg.

The rebuffed lead behind Apple Maps landed at the social network sometime in the past few weeks and is a manager within the company’s mobile ranks, two people with knowledge of the hire told Bloomberg.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

richard-williamson-fired

Williamson, previously the senior director of iOS platform services at Apple, was reportedly fired late last year from the company where he had worked for more than 10 years. The ousting came a few months after the Cupertino, Calif., company shipped a subpar Maps application that disappointed, and often misdirected, consumers. The debacle, which compelled Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a public apology, also was linked to the forced exit of iOS software chief Scott Forstall.

At least six former Apple software and hardware engineers have moved to Facebook, according to previous reports, likely to help the company develop Home for Android — and possibly even iOS.

Source: CNET

Engadget: HBO and Cinemax come to Google Fiber, cable companies shaking in their boots

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Google Fiber has a lot going for it, both as an ISP and a pay-TV platform. There was was one gaping hole in the service though: no HBO. Lets be honest with ourselves, its the big geeks that are looking to hop on that 1Gbps service first. And what do geeks love almost as much as blazing-fast Google-branded internet? Game of Thrones. Now Kansas City (and soon Austin) based nerds will be able to watch Joffrey become an even bigger monster live, rather than wait for some torrent site to get an illegal copy of it up (or, if they’re smart, mooch off of someone’s HBO GO account). Alongside HBO, Google Fiber has also added Cinemax: Home Box Office’s less cool sibling. The branded families of channels are both available today for $20 a month or $10 a month respectively. Or, if you’re a real premium TV fan, you can get both, plus STARZ and Showtime for $40 a month. Hit up the source for a few more details.

Source: Engadget